As my kids seem to be growing up faster every minute, I have turned to the scriptures more often in search for teachings about family and parenting. This year as I’ve read the story of the Savior’s birth I’ve looked with new eyes at Mary and Joseph as models of parenting. The Savior, although chosen and perfect from the beginning, was carefully placed in an earthly home to be raised, loved, and taught by only the best. As we look to the Savior this holiday season as our example, guide, and teacher, let us also look to his earthly guardians–Mary and Joseph–as prime parenting examples for us to follow.
As a mother myself I have been intrigued about who Mary was, why she was chosen, and how she chose to parent the Son of God. One of the first things we learn about Mary comes from the mouth of the angel Gabriel when he said to her, “thou art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women” (Luke 1:28). Elisabeth, the mother of John the Baptist, was “filled with the Holy Ghost” as soon as she saw Mary and was moved upon to tell Mary that she was “blessed among women”. Mary was chosen before the world began to be the mother of the Savior and had to live up to this holy calling her whole life. I believe we too are chosen to be mothers to our earthly children, and it’s comforting for me to know that as I respond as Mary did, by looking to God with faith and rejoicing (Luke 1: 46-47), He will prepare me for my calling as He did Mary.
Perhaps Mary’s greatest quality in preparing to be the mother of the Lord was her humility. Mary could have easily been lifted up in pride at the calling that had come to her. Instead, her response to Elisabeth in is a great example of responding in humility and trust, “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed” (Luke 1:46-48).
I also have noticed how Mary turned first to her God in faith and patience, than further sought out the companionship of Elisabeth who was wise and experienced. This points out to me also the power of seeking to learn from, and with, others. So often motherhood can feel lonely, or even worse a comparison game, but when we look first to please God and understand how He would have us parent, it is easy and natural to turn to other mothers and learn with them in unity.
I believe we also have so much to learn from Joseph, chosen to be the Savior’s father here on earth. The scriptures call Joseph a “just” man. After he learned of his espoused wife’s pregnancy, he chose to “put [Mary] away privily” instead of publicizing her pregnancy, which could have resulted in her death (Matt 1:19). Joseph must have been a man with great faith and in tune with the spirit to so quickly follow the directive in his dream, and believe that her pregnancy was of God and that he was still to take Mary as his wife. What a great example for us to follow when we are confronted with perceived faults or injustices. This is a lesson the Savior also taught as He called disciples from all walks of life, walked and ate among those despised and rejected, and healed those whom others condemned – perhaps a lesson he had learned from watching Joseph’s own concern for Mary, and even knowing of the story and the circumstances around his own birth.
Both Mary and Joseph were called and instructed by an angel and were both quick to obey. Joseph responded by arising from his sleep and “did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife” (Matt 1:24). Mary responded by saying “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38). What great examples of faith and obedience! I can’t help but think of how similar Mary’s response is to the Savior’s own words as he suffered in Gethsemane: “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine be done” (Luke 22:42). Just like Mary and Joseph, the Savior was ready to obey and do exactly what his Father in Heaven had sent him to do. Even when it wasn’t easy. Although his task was far greater than they could ever comprehend, their teachings and examples must have influenced Christ’s own obedience. It makes me realize (again!) how great an impact my actions and decisions have on my own children now and in years to come.
Many parents say they learn more from their children than their children do from them, and Mary and Joseph no doubt felt this way as they raised the Savior of the World. Still, their examples, their words and their lives were a part of who Jesus Christ became–a Redeemer to us all. I am excited to continue to read through the Christmas story with new eyes this year, and learn from the example of Mary and Joseph as they parented the Savior here on earth. What examples of parenting stick out to you in this story? I would love to have you share here as you focus on the Christmas Story this year!