by Robyn

Jesus, Once of Humble Birth

December 6, 2016 in Angels, Christmas, Doulas, home birth, hospital birth, Jesus Christ, Mary, Robyn, Uncategorized by Robyn

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With Christmas approaching I have been pondering the concept of “humble birth.”  We speak of Christ’s birth as being under humble circumstances. In fact one popular hymn begins, “Jesus once of humble birth” (Jesus, Once of Humble Birth, Hymns, 196).  One of the primary’s songs describes his birth this way:

This is the stable, shelter so bare;

Cattle and oxen first welcomed him there.

This is the manger, sweet hay for a bed,
Waiting for Jesus to cradle his head.
(“The Nativity Song,”Primary Songbook, 52)

For Mary this experience had to be humbling, “Although Elohim must have lovingly observed the birth from a heavenly vantage point, even Mary’s extraordinary travail increased the irony. The tiring journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem when she was great with child, the exclusion from the inn, the natural anxiety of bearing a first child, and Mary’s isolation from her own family must have weighed heavily upon her soul” (Gary L. Bunker, “The Ultimate Paradox“). We do not know the exact circumstances of Christ’s birth but Martin Luther remarked,

No one noticed that in a strange place she had not the very least thing needful in childbirth. There she was without preparation: no light, no fire, in the dead of night, in thick darkness. . . . And now think what she could use for swaddling clothes—some garment she could spare, perhaps her veil. . . .

Think, . . . there was no one there to bathe the Baby. . . . The mother was herself midwife and the maid. (Roland Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther [New York: Mentor, 1950], p. 173). 

But Mary had accepted this fate when she said to the angel Gabriel, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.”  (Luke 1:38).

As I have pondered Mary’s willingness to accept the circumstances that came upon her, I can only respect her humility.  The Guide to Scriptures defines it as,”To make meek and teachable, or the condition of being meek and teachable. Humility includes recognizing our dependence upon God and desiring to submit to his will” (source). Humility is not cowering.  It is much more powerful than that. It is accessing the power of God through submission to Him.

So what does this mean for us?  Sometimes we are given circumstances with a pregnancy or birth (and life) that is not what we wanted.  Last May I was asked to give doula support for a hospital birth to a couple who had previously had all of their babies at home with the assistance of midwives.  This birth could not be at home this time for a valid medical reason.  It was difficult for the mother to choose a birth in the hospital but she did.  This was to me “humble birth.” They had to accept the challenges that this birth would bring under circumstances that they did not want.  They asked a lot of questions and made the best of their situation.  Their little baby is seven months old now and continues to grow healthy because his parents with meekness accepted the circumstance they were dealt.  Many couples humbly choose a homebirth after much reflection too.  Humble birth isn’t about where the act took place so much as it is about the attitude we take towards the event.  Do we reverence the divinity with which the gift of giving life was appointed? Do we seek God’s will throughout the process?  Are we partakers of humble birth? I love the Nativity story.  I can relate to Joseph Fielding Smith when he said,

There is no story quite as beautiful, or which can stir the soul of the humble quite to the depths, as this glorious story can of the birth of our Redeemer. No words that man may utter can embellish or improve or add to the eloquence of its humble simplicity. It never grows old no matter how often told, and the telling of it is by far too infrequent in the homes of men. Let us repeat this wondrous story (Teachings of Joseph Fielding Smith, 310-318).

I never tire of hearing the story of our Savior’s birth.  Last week our Primary children performed a humble version of the Nativity at our ward Christmas party. It was perfect in its simplicity. May you also rejoice in the humility of our Savior’s birth. Wishing you a Christmas season filled with love and light.

#LIGHTtheWORLD

 

 

by Robyn

Did Mary Really Ride a Donkey to Bethlehem?

December 8, 2015 in Angels, Christmas, Jesus Christ, joy, Mary, Pregnancy, Robyn, Savior, Symbolism, Uncategorized by Robyn

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There are many beautiful works of art depicting Mary riding a donkey as Joseph led them to Bethlehem. I never questioned whether or not Mary rode a donkey on her journey with Joseph.  However, as I was researching the symbolism of Mary riding a donkey to Bethlehem and Christ riding a donkey as he entered Jerusalem in the Triumphal Entry, I realized that the scriptures don’t actually say that she did.  She could have. It is likely that she did given it was the popular mode of transportation for people of her day and circumstances.  But we really don’t know.

Nevertheless, it is interesting that it is commonly accepted. And so I wanted to delve into the symbolism of Christ riding the donkey into Jerusalem and what that may mean for our common belief that Mary rode upon a donkey too.   In Egypt the donkey is a symbol for the god of evil. In Hebrew writings the donkey or ass symbolized the devil, evil, harm or non-covenant people (Lost Language of Symbolism, 307-308).  What does the Son of God riding upon something that symbolized evil mean?

 

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The answer is two fold in Christ riding upon the donkey/ass. First, it symbolized that He would overcome all evil even the devil himself. This He did with his sinless life though being sorely tempted by even Satan himself.  By riding into Jerusalem in this manner He foreshadows His triumph over physical and spiritual death and His ability to grant salvation.

Secondly, riding upon the ass represented that He was the God of the Jews and Gentiles, “Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also” (Romans 3:29).  In addition, the gospel was to be preached to the Gentiles as well as be “blessed and numbered among the house of Israel” (2 Nephi 10:18).  The word Gentile means “the nations.”  It designates people of non-Israelite lineage but also nations that are without the gospel (Bible Dictionary, 679).

He is the Lord to each one of us whether we know it or not.  Christ did not come for the saint but for the sinner.  He is your Savior whether or not you accept Him as such.  He loves you whether or not you love Him.  He waits for you even when you stray.  He is merciful and makes it possible for each one of us to receive His salvation in one way or another.  To Him we are numbered.  He knows us.

And so Mary riding upon the back of a donkey pregnant with the babe Jesus is a beautiful foreshadowing of what was to come. So whenever I see Mary riding upon the donkey I think of the power and triumph of Christ entering Jerusalem upon a donkey with the crowds of people throwing their clothes and palm fronds in His path honoring Him as a King proclaiming,

“Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest” (Matthew 21:9).

These beautiful words are similar to the refrain of heavenly hosts heralding the birth of Jesus,

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14).

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In pondering these symbols a conversation with a dear friend of mine came to mind as we talked about her approaching birth.  She could feel the darkness surrounding her, trying to rob her of the joy that should accompany the birth of a child.  Knowing the challenges she had faced in the past I was reminded that she had overcome them.  The darkness did not beat her.  She had triumphed.  So if you find yourself pregnant or with a little one during this sacred time, or struggling in anyway, I hope you know that Christ will help you triumph over the evil.  It is not unusual to feel weighed down physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually as you overcome the evil of the world and choose to give the Gift of Life.  May you seek to be ever closer to Him and feel his love surround you as you bravely move forward to your “Bethlehem.”

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”  John 14:27

 

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Do You Have Room?

December 24, 2014 in Christmas, Heather by Heatherlady

I wish you all a Merry Christmas and hope that today your heart is rejoicing as we celebrate the most important birth in the history of the world. How grateful I am that God himself condescended to come to earth as a helpless baby, to a young mortal woman who had little more to offer him than herself. I hope that as you watch this beautiful video below you will let Christ’s love fill you and find room in your heart and in your life for Him and all His children on the earth.

 

Merry Christmas!

Why Having a December Birthday is NOT a Bummer

December 19, 2014 in Christmas, Heather, Mary, Uncategorized by Heatherlady

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A week before my first son was born I spent a very special afternoon with my Grandmother.  She is famous for making wonderful chocolates, especially carmel turtles. They are the best. It was getting near Christmas and I’d convinced her to let me help her make her Christmas chocolates. I went with the hope that I’d be able to learn how to make chocolates, but it turned out that she taught me something much more important.

It was a beautiful afternoon and were sitting at her kitchen table rolling the centers for the mints we were going to dip. My baby was due soon and I was complaining to her how bad I felt that my baby would probably have a birthday around Christmas time. “It is such a bummer,” I told her, “His birthday will always be eclipsed by Christmas and he’ll have to wait a whole year before he gets any presents again!” She listened to me and then smiled at me in a knowing way. My father, her fourth child, was born only a few days before Christmas. She told me about how she’d worried she’d be in the hospital on Christmas and prayed that he would come before then.  But then she looked at me with her deep, wise eyes and said, “But you know Heather, there is something really special about having a baby– especially a baby boy– at Christmas time.”

Those words really touched my heart, and that night as I snuggled into my bed and felt the little boy inside of me wiggle I thought about what my Grandmother meant.

I thought of Mary and of the precious baby boy that she carried inside of her. I wondered if she felt a lot of the same apprehension and fear that I did. If she ever doubted her ability to be a mother, or worried about her capacity to handle what would be placed on her shoulders. I wondered how she would have prepared to give birth and I imagined what it must have been like for her to become a mother. As I thought about her, I began to see what my Grandmother meant. There was something very special about having a baby at Christmas. I saw things in a way I never had before.

It was real.

Mary was a real woman, with real feelings and real Braxton-Hicks contractions, and Jesus was a real baby. A real baby who was delivered by His mother in the same way I was going to deliver mine. And that changed my whole perspective. I began to feel a deep kinship with Mary and rejoice that I would get to celebrate the birth of my baby at the same time as the world celebrated the birth of Mary’s son.

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A week later, my little boy was born, and I felt love like I’d never felt it before. It made that Christmas the most special one of my whole life, one full of complete joy and awe. It turned my heart to my Savior Jesus Christ in way that is hard to describe, and taught me things deep in my heart.

I often hear people say that they feel bad for people with December birthday’s, especially if they are near Christmas. They lament the fact, much like I did at my Grandmother’s house, that their special day doesn’t get the attention it might have gotten at any other time of the year. If that is something that you have said, or felt, I hope that perhaps my Grandmother’s words can change the way you look at it, because it IS an incredible thing to give birth to a baby in December. To be heavy with child as you read about Mary traveling to Jerusalem, and holding your own newborn child in your arms as you read about Jesus being wrapped in swaddling clothes. It is a living demonstration of the Love of God.

I know that each year I celebrate my son’s birthday (we’ve done 7 of them now) I am reminded of how it felt to hold him in my arms for the first time, to feel the miracle and joy of birth and know that with God ALL things are possible.  And each year I reflect on Mary and Jesus, and know that it was real. That He really was born, and that God– the Creator of the World– came to Earth as a helpless baby. And there is NOTHING more incredible than that.

So if you are expecting a baby this Christmas season, don’t despair. There is so much more to Christmas that presents and parties.. and having a baby will remind you of that. God knows when your baby needs to be born, so trust that. There are incredible things to be learned from Christmas babies.

And if you have a birthday in December  I hope that my Grandmother’s words will help you remember that there is very something special about being born around Christmastime–  you are a tangible reminder to everyone of what the holiday is all about.

A celebration of Life. Your life. Jesus’s life. Eternal life.

So Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas!

by Robyn

A Gift for an Angel

December 9, 2014 in Angels, Birthdays, Christmas, Death, fasting, Grief, home birth, Jesus Christ, joy, Loss, Love, Mary, Robyn, Savior, Thoughts, Uncategorized by Robyn

December is special to me for many reasons.  Not only do I get to celebrate Christ’s birth, I get to celebrate my firstborn son’s birthday.  Kyle only spent two birthdays on earth with us before he died  but we still celebrate his birth every year.  If you have read “Birth in Remembrance of Him” in the Gift of Giving Life then you are familiar with his birth story.  His birth will always be very special to me.  He came just days before Christmas surprising us on a starry night.  No hospital, no midwife, just me, my husband and a newborn baby in a tiny little room.  I felt a special kinship with Mary, Joseph and the precious Baby Jesus.  I will always treasure that night.

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The cutest angel on our tree.

 

How does one celebrate an angel birthday? I don’t think there is a right way to do it.    We started by releasing balloons for each year old he would be.  We each write a message on the balloon and release it into the sky.  As the years pass, the number of balloons has grown so we are looking to change things around a bit. We will likely continue to open a gift from Kyle.  It is usually a Christmas book or other classic children’s book.  We have also donated a book to our local library because Kyle loved books so much.

This year I decided to give Kyle a gift.  It was early because I gave it to him on Fast Sunday.  As I have blogged about before, I moved this past year.  In my old ward, I often shared my testimony.  It was not unusual for there to be lots of pauses which made it easier for me to get up. The new ward has a line waiting every fast Sunday so if you want to get up you have to get up early and get into the line up.  I also felt a little more nervous to get up in this new ward.  And there is always the challenge of keeping the toddler happy while you go wait your turn.  While she was distracted with the cute boys behind her I snuck to the stand and waited my turn.  And then the bonus, my four year old followed me.  I admit to feeling like my thoughts were scattered but what I do know is,

“Nevertheless, ye are blessed, for the testimony which ye have borne is recorded in heaven for the angels to look upon; and they rejoice over you, and your sins are forgiven you.” Doctrine and Covenants 62:3

My belief is that my angel, Kyle, will read it.  It is my gift to him.  And that is the glue that will bind us together forever as a family, Christ.  Our living testimonies of Him.  I also realized after finally getting up was that I could keep giving that gift to him.  So I have shared my testimony in my primary class, Family Home Evening, on my Facebook page, Instagram account and blog.  And now you get to hear it too.

I do know that Christ lives.  He is my Light.  He brings me hope as I seek repentance and forgiveness. He has the power to save.  He leads and guides His living church through a living prophet of God on the earth.  I know the Book of Mormon is the word of God as is the Bible.  My heart rejoices in their power.  I know that it is because of the Savior that my family can be together forever.  This is not wishful thinking.  This is eternal truth.  I bear witness to it.  In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Behold the Condescension of God!

December 20, 2013 in Christmas, Heather, Mary by Heatherlady

Mary and Jesus

“And the angel said unto me again: Look and behold the condescension of God!”  1 Nephi 11:26

My oldest son was born not long before Christmas. His birth was beautiful and has forever changed my feelings about Christmas. As I stared into his sweet, pure face that first Christmas day my heart was overflowing with gratitude to think that Jesus Christ, the creator of heaven and earth, the great “I Am”, came to earth as a humble baby.  The salvation of our souls and the fate of the world depended upon him, and yet he had enough trust in the  goodness of the  world– in the goodness of a woman — to come  down to earth….helpless, poor, and humble.

I can hardly wrap my mind around it.

Why?

Why would God come to earth as a baby? Why would he come to an unknown girl and her young husband? Why would he be born into poverty and anonymity when it was within his power to come with glory, might, and majesty? When all he had to do was speak and the earth was created.

Why then come as a baby?

This is a question I am still pondering over in my mind, yet the more I ponder on it the more I see that it was because of his incredible love for us.

He came to earth as one of us– as a helpless baby, a hungry toddler, an inquisitive child, as a son, a brother and a friend– to show us the beauty and divinity of our mortal experience. To teach us that these mortal bodies we inhabit are capable of much more than we ever dreamed of. That if we just come unto him all the weakness, sin, fatigue, suffering and pain we experience in our mortal bodies can be overcome and healed. He came to teach us that the relationships and interactions we have with one another matter– that they shape the very fabric of eternity– and that love is the most powerful force there is.

He came to teach us about love, because He is love.

And as this Christmas I again stare in to a new, little face from heaven my heart is filled with gratitude and immense love for the incredible condescension of our God.

There would be no love, no life with out Him.

And as your Christmas gift this year  I want to share this  beautiful song and video with you. I love how it depicts the mortality of Christ’s birth; Mary laboring and giving birth,  Joseph “catching” the baby, and the  look that passes between them as they lay their tiny baby to rest in the manger. It is a look I have shared with my husband after each of our children’s  births– a look of amazement and awe at the miracle of life. One can only imagine how much more they must have felt those feelings when they pondered on who their little baby really was.