Empowering Mary: A Paradigm Shift on the Nativity Story

December 18, 2017 in Mary, Robyn, Savior, Uncategorized

We received this post from Carol Vezzani who contributed to our book the beautiful essay “My Angel in Gethsemane” in our Atonement chapter.  Carol also blogs at   http://anunsuccessfulblog.blogspot.com.  I enjoyed this post because I love the idea of Mary being proactive and empowered about her birth.  Enjoy! –Robyn


Empowering Mary: A Paradigm Shift on the Nativity Story by Carol Vezzani

I’ve always felt at least a little uncomfortable with the common modern renditions of the conditions of Christ’s birth: Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem, poor and alone. They reach the one inn in town, Mary obviously ready to pop, if not already in labor, only to find it crowded and run by a grumpy and inhospitable innkeeper who gruffly forces them to leave. In despair and urgency, they take refuge in a stable among the animals and filth. Alone and in the most squalid of circumstances imaginable, the Christ child is born and laid in the manger where the cows and goats continue to nibble the hay out from under his head.

The entire basis for this account is these 4 verses from the Gospel of Luke, chapter 2–


4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judæa, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

5 To be taxed with Mary his aespoused wife, being great with child.

6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.


When you read what is there, there really is so little that is concretely declared about the circumstances. I have no problem with people inventing details to flesh out a story that is so important to so many. The problem I have is with those invented details being perpetuated and taught as truth down the generations.

It started with the innkeeper. Even as a child, I was uncomfortable with the birth story having an invented villain. No where in the Bible does it mention an innkeeper, and yet he consistently makes an appearance, turning the holy couple away out of selfishness and greed. My first childish thoughts were, “That is so unfair. No one knows that he was mean or selfish. Maybe he was nice. He even let them stay in his stable. What, should he have kicked out someone who was already there? He did the best he could.” It wasn’t until later that I realized–there may never even have been an innkeeper at all. And I think that’s the point. I can invent details that please myself, but I do not claim that is actually how things were, any more than the “traditional” details.

Some other thoughts are on the accommodations available to Mary and Joseph. The Joseph Smith Translation of the bible renders the word as “inns” rather than “inn,” and some research into the original Greek (on the internet–don’t judge) points out that the word translated as “inn” in this circumstance is not the same as that meaning a public house for travelers, but rather a guestroom in a private residence. This makes sense. Bethlehem is Joseph’s hometown. It seems only natural that he would have family to stay with. But, being a time when everyone came home, the houses were probably crowded.

Since having my own babies, I have connected more with Mary in this story. The more I thought about her, the more I felt offended on her behalf even more than on the innkeeper’s. Why should she be depicted as the simpering, whimpering, powerless victim? I personally think God would have picked a Mother for the Christ with a little more gumption than that. Having traveled to a different state in order to have a natural home birth, in the basement of a friend’s house where the rest of the family who owned the house went about their business upstairs, I know what it is like to have a baby far from home, in a busy house that doesn’t belong to you. And let me tell you, there could be plenty of “room” to live and eat and sleep at night and still “no room” to have a baby. And at this point my imagination started to run. I can only imagine Mary, coming on to her time, looking around that crowded house and thinking, “No. Way.” OK. Say she is demure and kindhearted. She won’t kick anyone else out of the house just for her, but still. She goes to Joseph.


Mary: There’s no room here. I can’t have my baby here.

Joseph: There’s no where else to go. The city is full.

Mary: I don’t know. Not here.

Joseph: Mary, there is no where else.

Mary: There has to be. Somewhere. I can’t be here with all these people.

Joseph: Where, Mary? Where? The entire city is full.

Mary: I will find a place!

Joseph: Where are you going to go? The barn?

Mary: Yes!


Her nesting instincts kick in and she starts cleaning.

OK, that’s the funny way it goes in my mind. Truthfully, there were probably many female relatives and a midwife or two there to anticipate her need for solitude, and clean for her. Nowhere says that Jesus was born on the first night they arrived. They had time to prepare for this journey. They would have planned time to prepare the circumstances for his birth.

Again, I emphasize that I am not claiming this is what happened. I am only saying that this narrative fits with the facts as laid out in the scriptures as well as any other does, and it feels a lot more respectful of the Holy Mother as a woman and a powerful daughter of God.

Why Having a December Birthday is NOT a Bummer

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


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.


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!

Celebrating Christ’s Birth

December 5, 2012 in Angels, Birthdays, Music, Robyn, Savior, Uncategorized

I love the Christmas season so I wanted to share some of my favorite Christmas traditions in hopes that you will share some in the comments section below.

Decorating, Music, and the Best Christmas Pageant Ever

We love decorating the house together while listening to Christmas songs and reading The Best Christmas Pageant Ever aloud.  I usually read while my husband fixes the lights on the tree which is a daunting task.  It keeps the mood light while he has to replace broken or dead lights.  There are a few words of profanity in this book uttered by the scrappy Herdman bunch.  (I substitute those words when I read it out loud.)  This book is a treasure and never ceases to open my eyes once more to the meaning of the Christmas Story.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever First edition


Lessons from the people of the Nativity

So many blessings come from visiting teaching. And it just so happens that we get to visit teach a sister who works for Deseret Book.  Sometimes when we visit her, she gives us a little treasure she found in the store.  A few years ago she gave me and my partner A Christ-Centered Christmas: Seven Traditions to Lead Us Closer to the Savior by Emily Freeman. The author talks about different characters in the Nativity and what we can learn from them and how they came near unto the Savior. We do them on Sunday and Monday nights (Family Home Evening) lessons throughout December.


The Last Straw

We fill a manger (which is really a basket) with straw throughout the month of December.  We pick names within the family and try to serve that person all week doing acts of service for them.  We can also put straw in for any act of service but it has been good for us to also have a person to keep in mind during the week.  We begin this tradition by reading the children’s book,  The Last Straw.  On Christmas Eve we act out the Nativity reading from Luke 2 and place baby Jesus in the manger.  Baby Jesus has usually been a homely but very loved doll wrapped in a white blanket.  I love this part and I’m touched every time we do it especially with my 4 year old son who so cradles baby Jesus in his arms with so much love before he places him in the manger.


The Bethlehem Dinner

We don’t actually do this the same every year.  The first year we did this our friends invited us over.  We were to come dressed as in Christ’s day.  In their basement they had backdrops covering the walls that were retired backdrops for a Nativity play so it looked so authentic.  The tables were set on the ground as in Christ’s day and we ate from common plates, meaning we shared the entrees from the same plates.  We ate foods common to Christ’s day as well.  After the dinner we sang some Christmas songs and acted out the Nativity.  As we have done this as a family we have done a more simplified version on Christmas Eve.

Christmas lights

I don’t think I have to explain this one.  We know the neighborhoods nearby that really decorate with lights and take a little drive.

Kyle’s Birthday

My son passed away over six years ago.  His birthday comes just a few days before Christmas and has become a precious and tender tradition for our family.  We throw a small birthday party, share memories of him, and watch some home video of him.  We release a balloon for each year old he would be.  We write messages to him on these balloons and release them into the sky.  Each child is given a gift from Kyle which has always been a book, usually a Christmas book.  I love that his birthday precedes the day that celebrates Christ’s birth.  It brings it all into perspective and draws me closer to the Savior.

Angels for our Tree

Each Christmas we add a small framed picture ornament to our tree of a loved one who has passed on or come before us.  We share with the children what we know about this ancestor or recently passed loved one and talk about what they are doing in the spirit world.  I love the spirit this brings to our home.  Someday I hope to have a tree dedicated to our angels.

Reading Christmas stories by the Christmas tree

My husband has a thing for lights on trees.  As a result our tree has so many lights that it lights the room up enough that we read by the tree.  Being next to the tree brings a beautiful atmosphere and spirit.

Family parties

I love gathering with family no matter if it is before or after Christmas Day.  Just being surrounded by my loved ones is Christmas to me since I don’t live by any immediate family members.

Secret Service

I can’t go into detail here or I might reveal some long held family secrets but suffice it to say we love anonymous service and doorbell ditching.


Christmas Music

I love the spirit that beautiful Christmas music brings.  I enjoy learning the beautiful music of the season in the ward choir too.  I feel a kinship to the heavenly hosts who heralded Christ’s birth.  This has been a new favorite by the piano guys, a beautiful version of O Come, Emmanuel.

Those unexpected Christmas moments

Sometimes it sneaks up on me and it is ever so touching, an extra hug from someone I visit teach, reading Christmas letters and cards, making a gift with or for my child, sharing my testimony, hearing someone’s testimony, witnessing a birth, pondering the Savior, and the list goes on and on.


Please share with us how you celebrate the birth of Christ.


The Christmas Letter – Robyn

December 3, 2012 in Atonement, Gratitude, Parenting, Robyn, Savior, Uncategorized

A little over three years ago I felt inspired to write something for the Ensign.  I was very nervous about it but excited too when I sent it in.  I was told it may never print but that they wanted to use it.  They just didn’t know when so when one of the editors contacted me a few months ago I had almost forgotten about it.  And I will admit it was a bit strange for me to read the edited version at first.  They did a fantastic job editing but the story felt strange to me without all of its pieces.   I do understand how editing goes.  I did edit a number of birth stories for the book so I naturally know how the person editing agonizes over what to cut and what to keep.  Anyway, you can read the Ensign version here.  I have posted my original entry below.  May you be surrounded by the Love of Christ this season.  Blessings, Robyn


The Christmas Letter

By Robyn Allgood


Christmas 2006 was to be our first Christmas without our son, Kyle.  Not only was it our first Christmas without him but his birthday preceded Christmas by five days.  He would have been 3 years old.  Three months had passed since he died and we had started to try to get our lives back to a new normal.  I was determined not to allow Christmas or his birthday to be sad but I still found it a little harder to enjoy all of the usual preparations for Christmas.  Even shopping for presents reminded me I would not need any little boy gifts.  I longed to buy a little train or car for my son.  Unfortunately I had found myself overwhelmed with the “busy”ness of the season instead of feeling the spirit of Christmas.  I longed to put Christ back into Christmas.  Every year since my oldest daughter, Maryn, was born we had sent out a Christmas letter to friends and family.  I wasn’t sure what to write this year.  The thought of doing it overwhelmed me.  On the morning of December 22, it came to me and I couldn’t leave the computer until it was written.  I cried and cried as I wrote it.  This is the letter I finally sent:


December 22, 2006

Dear Family and Friends,


I just wanted to send a little Christmas letter via email this year in hopes it reaches you happy and healthy.  Many loved ones have asked how we are doing and I want everyone to know we are good.  We are blessed.  For those who may not have heard our little 2 ½ year old Kyle passed away on September 20, 2006, due to complications from e-coli contamination.  We celebrated his 3rd Birthday on December 20.  It was a wonderful day filled with a variety of emotions. 


On December 16 one of my friends called to tell me her little 6 week old baby had passed away from SIDS.  My heart sunk as I told her I would soon be there at the hospital with her.  I didn’t want anyone else to have to experience that kind of pain.  But I drove to the hospital with a prayer in my heart that I might say and do the things this family needed at the time.


The funeral for her little Naomi was set for December 20.  I was honored to have been asked to attend their funeral and read a letter and poem.  I allowed myself to grieve for Kyle again that day and for little Naomi and her family.  It was part of what I needed to do but may have pushed away if I had not attended the funeral.  I had been determined to not allow Kyle’s 3rd Birthday to be a sad day for me.  So there was sadness and grief but there was joy and peace too.  Many close friends and family called, sent flowers or gifts (a beautiful book of memories was presented to us by friends), and we hosted a small Curious George party.  My oldest daughter, Maryn, was excited to decorate in red and yellow.  We released 3 balloons for Kyle’s 3 years.  We even sang to him and my mother whose birthday was the day before.


Prior to Naomi’s passing I had been praying to know who I could help or serve so that I might feel closer to Christ this Christmas.  I thought maybe someone might need presents or something like that.  I wondered if I would find that family or person who needed us.  But Naomi’s family needed comfort and peace and I am honored they asked for what little I could offer. 


I spent time pondering today in the early morning hours as I woke to care for my baby, Megan, who was sick, while Jeff cared for Maryn who was also sick.  Before I had gone to bed I had written in my journal an experience I had with Kyle this past summer.  I was so pleased that it had come back to me in clarity and that I could write it down so that it would not be forgotten.  I wrote that I didn’t regret having to take swimming lessons with Kyle when he was too scared to go by himself.  At the time I was a little put out by it because I would have to get a babysitter for Megan everyday for the two weeks.  However, I was soon grateful that I got to be the one who taught him to blow bubbles, dip his head under the water, kick his legs, and jump from the side of the pool so I could catch him in my arms.  So my mind was turned to the many things I was grateful for and what things I did not regret doing.  I wanted to share some of the things that came to my mind.


I am grateful that I could read piles and piles of books with Kyle while he sat in my lap so contentedly.

I am glad we went on many walks around our neighborhood.

I am grateful we spent hours playing in the park.

I am grateful that I let him play with his little buddies (even if it meant they would both be covered with sand in a matter of minutes).

I am grateful that I could teach him to pray (even if he hadn’t yet mastered sitting still).

I am grateful that we could pray as a family each morning and night.

I am grateful that we read the scriptures every day as a family even if it was hard to fully capture their attention every time.

I will never regret having family home evening on Monday nights.

I do not regret taking him to Church every Sunday even if the report back from Nursery wasn’t always a positive one.  (He was known to tackle the other children, but he was also known to be the most enthusiastic singer!)

I feel fortunate that I could study the scriptures in the quiet hours before my children woke up or when they napped during the middle of the day because I felt armed with the spirit when I did.

I do not regret taking him camping even though it meant a lot of extra planning to go with a baby, 2 year old and 5 year old.

I am so glad we took lots of pictures and video to capture his joyful ways.

I am grateful that I could play hide and seek and hear him squeal when he was discovered.

I do not regret cleaning up his toys, wiping his nose, or cleaning up when he didn’t make it to the potty.

I am thankful for his adventurous ways because they kept me on my toes.

I do not regret staying home to be his mom.

I do not regret staying up all night with him while he was sick.

I do not regret any of the time I spent with him.

I am grateful that he shared his testimony.  His first and last trip to the pulpit was his last fast Sunday before he died. 

And I am thankful I could teach him about Jesus Christ and his Heavenly Father for I know he is with them now. 


There are many more things I am grateful for but I have to finish this letter.  How grateful I am for a loving and kind Father in Heaven who is so mindful of us and willing to let us learn from our weaknesses and trials.  How grateful I am for the Plan of Salvation, for the babe Jesus born in a humble stable who would bring to the world the most important gift of forgiveness through his Atonement for our sins.  I am grateful for this comfort and peace.  “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.  May that peace be with you and your loved ones this Christmas. 



Robyn Allgood and Family

Jeff, Robyn, Maryn, Kyle, and Megan



The day after I sent this letter out, there was a knock at our door.  Our yard was filled with neighbors, friends and ward members singing “Silent Night.”  The last song they sang to us was “Families Can Be Together Forever.”  As I listened, tears of joy and gratitude streamed down my face for the power of God’s Plan to bind on earth and in heaven our families together for eternity.  Christmas came early in 2006.  It had appeared in many quiet, beautiful, spirit-filled moments and for them I am eternally grateful.


On February 14, 2008, little David Kyle Allgood was born into his father’s loving arms just as his older brother, Kyle, was.  It may have been Valentine’s Day but it sure felt like Christmas Day to us.  Since the day I wrote my Christmas Letter in 2006, I have learned that Christmas really can come many times a year, you just have to let it in.