Christmas Series: The Parable of the Nativity

Guest post by Quimby

 

“And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! And this is the gospel, the glad tidings, which the voice out of the heavens bore record unto us – That he came into the world, even Jesus, to be crucified for the world, and to bear the sins of the world, and to sanctify the world, and to cleanse it from all unrighteousness; that through him all might be saved.” (D&C Section 76)
nativityMy son was born on Christmas Eve. His birth came the year after our family’s most disastrous Christmas ever – a fairly remarkable statement, considering my extended family includes evangelical Christians, fundamental Muslims, and militant Atheists. My heart was still heavy with the events of 12 months prior when I cradled him in my arms and thanked a loving Heavenly Father for giving me this child, at exactly this moment, to soothe my troubled soul and let me find, once more, the beauty of Christmas. I looked into those slate-blue eyes and saw he already had all of the wisdom of the world, and he was anxious to share it with me. I kissed that soft spot on his head and cooed, “It’s alright, little one; we don’t have to worry about that just yet.”

Of course I couldn’t help but think of another mother, who had also cradled her newborn son one Christmas long ago. I marvelled at her courage and wondered if she did not rail at the injustice of it, that her child – so perfect – would have to carry such a heavy burden for us all.

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Christmas Series: God Loves Us More At Christmas

Guest Post by Erin Belanger 

Christmas aloneTwo years ago I was anticipating my first Christmas after my divorce. My finances were scant as I came home from a much needed Thanksgiving trip with my kids to Las Vegas where most of my siblings had gathered. The kids, ages 13, 11, 8 and 6, were excited about making wishlists and there was a slightly manic buzz about the idea of having two Christmases. I was not going to have them until the afternoon on Christmas day and my heart hurt a little bit at not spending Christmas Eve enjoying our rituals: fondue dinner, the annual nativity pageant put on with remnant fabric costumes and baby dolls, singing Christmas hymns, reading the goals we had set last year from the stocking for Jesus, putting cookies and milk by the fireplace, watching It’s a Wonderful Life with a cup of cocoa in hand. I was already tired trying to think how I was going to stretch the little bit of money I had to spend on Christmas to make this year not seem quite so different from all the others. I usually tried and failed to keep Christmas simple, but I was mourning the excess of year’s past. There was just no way I could see that Christmas would have quite the same magic when I had to do it on my own with limited means.

What I failed to remember is that God loves us more at Christmas. He softens hearts and inspires the whole of humanity to look around for someone in need or in pain to bless. At that time I was in both pain and need and heaven’s blessings were poured out upon my little home that Christmas season.

When I left Las Vegas I told my mom I was going to put a trampoline on layaway and that would be their only gift besides a few small things in their stockings. I wanted to do things on my own and I knew I would have a small paycheck from my new job subbing at the elementary school later that month that would cover the rest. I went the next day and put my $20 down and looked forward to buying it with my first earnings. I knew I was going to have to wait until the last minute for a tree, because they always marked them down the last week, but that was better than nothing. I usually had a small present that was opened by the child that found the *pickle ornament on the tree. Obviously, the trampoline couldn’t be wrapped, so I tried to think of something else I could give them that wouldn’t set me back. Stockings would be fruit and nuts and chocolate. They would be okay without the trinkets, that usually filled the leg of the stocking, right?

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Christmas Series: The Best Ward Christmas Party Ever

4870085601_bd3e4c2dc8_mAlmost everyone that I know has a decided opinion on the ward Christmas party.  I have discovered that what constitutes an ideal party varies so widely that it is absolutely impossible that everyone would be pleased.  Last week the woman who has been asked to organize ours called me.  She asked if I would be willing to put together a program for before the dinner, because she likes to have everyone gathered and busy in the chapel while food is set out and organized.  She feels it brings the Spirit, and she hates it when dinner is interrupted for singing songs or other things.

Unfortunately, my view is almost entirely opposite from hers.  Our ward is actually putting on a concert the night before in which I am heavily involved.  I told her that given my involvement in the other program I didn’t feel I had resources to put together a new program.  I put forward the idea that maybe we

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Christmas Series: Primary Nativity Program

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The Annunciation – Luca Giordano courtesy of www.metmuseum.org

 

If your ward is anything like mine, the Nativity program put on by the children of the Primary at the annual Ward Christmas Party is a highlight of the season!  Some years, the script seems like it might have been lifted from “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” others you may notice the absence of spoken lines for the beloved female characters.

Let’s call this an “equitable” Nativity script, then. With spoken lines for Mary, Elisabeth and Anna (in addition to the lines of a second angel and shepherd which may be cast as either gender), this Nativity script offers equal speaking opportunities for girls and boys alike.

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The Exponent Christmas Series: The Posts of Christmas Past…

We love Christmas here at the Exponent, which means we love Christmas posts!

noelBecause of this love, we are dedicating this week to a Christmas Series, complete with poetry, ward Christmas party hints, an excellent Christmas Nativity play, and even a Christmas book review, plus lots of love for the women who celebrated the First Christmas, Exponent Style. But it won’t end this week, we will sprinkle flakes of Christmas cheer throughout all of December, in celebration of Christmas.

“But wait!” You say, “This week is American Thanksgiving! We want Tofurky recognition!”

We know!  We do, too! We love American Thanksgiving …and Canadian Thanksgiving, and Australian Thanksgiving and any time a Thanksgiving Feast is offered.  (“Thanksgiving” was a term used in a celebratory feast when voyagers arrived at far off destinations, and was even a term used among Mormons at the completion of a new chapel’s construction.) So we are still having some delicious Thanksgiving posts as a part of the Christmas Series, to round out the season properly…. rather like a nutmeg-sprinkled happy sip of egg nog.

But before this series of fresh Christmas posts begin, we invite you to visit the ghosts of Christmas posts past. So, sit down, grab a cup of cocoa –or iced chocolate for those in the Southern Hemisphere– and put your feet up. Because we have some magical Posts of Christmas Past for you, such as:

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Mixed Messages

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“Education is an important part of Heavenly Father’s plan to help you become more like Him. He wants you to educate your mind and to develop your skills and talents, your power to act well in your responsibilities, and your capacity to appreciate life. The education you gain will be valuable to you during mortality and in the life to come.” – For the Strength of Youth

When I was about 15, I remember having a combined lesson for Young Men and Young Women where we discussed education and college. As someone who always enjoyed school, and was already looking forward to college, I was excited to hear about how to achieve my goal of a university education.

We started out the evening with the quote from For the Strength of Youth above. It is something that always resonated with me: knowledge is power, the glory of God is intelligence, the truth will set you free and all those old clichés. I had been reared on words like those in the FSoY and prophets endorsing the importance of learning.

Imagine my surprise then when the Young Men’s president, the only speaker, addressed his remarks almost exclusively to the young men. He advised them to pick a career that would be fulfilling and lucrative, so that they could be consistent and support their wife and children. He told them to work hard now so they could keep their options open for later. He encouraged them to take initiative and network with people in the ward who were in careers they were interested in pursuing.

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A Perfect Mother

perfect parent (1)In honor of National Adoption Month

For me the catchiest tune in primary is “The Family is of God.” I can’t get it out of my head. Along with the tune come images of families from my time as an adoption social worker that contradict the lyrics as written. Images of nurturing fathers and mothers that provide and preside. Images of the most needy and rejected children.

Too often as an adoption recruiter I observed that the more a child needs a parent, the more terrible the behaviors they express, making the neediest children the least adoptable. As the tune trips through my head I keep thinking about the children that I struggled most to match with an adoptive parent/parents.

Anthony’s life was a series of disasters. An unexpected pregnancy to a drug addicted mother placed him in foster care upon her testing positive for methamphetamine at his birth. His mother lost custody of his two and three year old brothers before Anthony was born. Infants are generally easier to place for adoption, but Anthony was part of a sibling group and it took some time to find a home that would adopt the sibling set of three boys.

The four and six year old brothers were legally adopted by their foster parent, but three year old Anthony’s adoption had not yet finalized when awful physical abuse was uncovered. The older siblings with the adopted last name were removed from the home and sent to one foster home, while Anthony with his birth name went to another home. Unknowingly, the siblings with different last names were assumed to be unrelated and separated.

The older boys were legally freed from their adoptive parents and fortunately went almost directly to the home of a young single woman who fostered the boys for about a year before adopting them. Anthony was not so fortunate. In his new foster home he became the victim of an older teenage boy who befriended him and brutally raped Anthony repeatedly for over a year before the sexual abuse was discovered.

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