One week before Christmas

Normally I don't talk religion on my blog. I was never very comfortable discussing religion with people I don't know very well or who don't share my belief system. And even then, I keep my testimony mostly to myself because I am not a scriptorian or a great philosophizer, and I don't have any new insight that hasn't already been shouted from the rooftops elsewhere. I have my own insights related to my own life, but since nobody is in my place but me, I figure they wouldn't be of use to anyone else. Or easily understood. For the most part, my friends see me at church and I do what I have been asked to do (sometimes with great discomfort--I have a very hard time conducting Relief Society. I can play the organ in Sacrament meeting and goof up every verse in every song, but I have come to accept that as just a part of who I am. Standing up in front of people who are of greater apparent spirituality than I makes me want to hide in the Relief Society cupboard under the tablecloths and not come out until the meeting is over. I am NOT a leader, no matter what calling in church I hold) and somehow I hope that shows that I am committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

But it's the Christmas season and I am a Christian, and for the next week, I would like to do my scripture study on my blog. Today I read a short excerpt of the larger nativity story about Mary being called to be the mother of Christ (see, this has bearing on my feeling of general incompetence regarding my calling as a counselor in the Relief Society presidency) found in Luke 1:26-38. And FYI, scripture study for me usually means thinking about the situations I read about and how I would react. (Keep in mind that I am not a theologian--this blogging exercise is going to be a tough one for me because even among friends I don't like exposing this much of myself and how I think)

And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.

Only a woman could be troubled when an angel appears and calls her favored. It's an interesting response, especially when the greeting is as good as this one. An angel calls Mary highly favored! And she quails. Does she suspect she's going to experience a major life change? Probably. Angels don't appear just to tell a person that she's been a good young woman. They come with a purpose and often that purpose is an assignment, usually a difficult one.

And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.

First of all, she gets to have a baby. Frightening and exciting all at the same time! I wonder if she realized at this point that she was going to be the mother of the prophesized-of and long-awaited Messiah?

He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.

I can't imagine knowing that in advance about my child. I'd be thinking that I could never be that good a mother to a son like that. The angel left her with no instructions on how to be the kind of mother the Messiah needed, and even if she was chosen precisely because she WAS that kind of woman, she probably didn't know it herself. Women generally don't know what they are capable of (maybe men don't either, but I'm not a man so I couldn't say) in advance. Then I think of my own children. Am (Was) I the kind of mother they need(ed)?

Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?

And then after that, I'd start worrying about what the neighbors would think. Really. Maybe I'm too concerned about the judgment of others. It doesn't appear to have worried Mary as much.

And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible.

I think that last line is my favorite out of this whole reading today. For with God nothing shall be impossible. No matter what my failings might be, nothing is impossible if I am with God and God is with me. I can do my Relief Society calling even though it's not my favorite thing in the world and I think that I suck at it. (Is it ok to say "suck" when discussing one's testimony of the scriptures?) (Is it ok to be just a little bit facetious while discussing scripture?) (yes is my answer. I hope yours is too)

And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.

Her faith is to be admired. She would do whatever the Lord asked her to do and with whatever consequences. I can imagine her shaking a bit, thinking to herself, "am I ready for this? Can I do it? God must think I can, so I guess I can think I can too. But I'm still scared!"

And the angel departed from her.

I wonder if the angel waited to depart until after Mary agreed to do what was asked of her. The Lord doesn't force upon us anything--we decide if we believe it or not. He calls his servants, but they can refuse, I imagine. It's a huge leap of faith to accept these opportunities. Moses probably would have been content to live out his life with his wife and her family. At least I would have been.

For me, this story is about accepting the opportunities to serve given to me by the Lord and trying to serve as willingly as Mary did. In calling herself "the handmaid of the Lord" she showed me that that she was turning her life over to Him and would do whatever He called her to do. I need to be more like that.


Jen said…
I enjoyed this post. I think it's easy to forget what Mary must have gone through and all the thoughts and fears she had to have had. Breaking it down the way you did helps me to empathize with her in a way I never did before.

I feel much the same as you regarding my lack of scripture knowledge (probably worse). Mike is always trying to get me to volunteer comments in gospel doctrine, but I shudder at the thought. I'm usually confused about what is being taught in the first place. My comments would consist of, "Soooo, like, ummmm, ya know, what you said was really awesome."
I love this post.

And by the way, it totally negated your previous statement that you never have any great new spiritual insights.

I learned something new. Thanks.