Christmas with the women of the nativity

Posted by on December 24, 2013 in women | 10 comments

Champaigne_visitationI was in charge of teaching all of our Young Women this last Sunday and I got permission from our president to go off manual and instead teach a lesson relating to Christmas.  I divided our girls into three groups and assigned them scriptures relating to Mary, Elizabeth and Anna respectively.  They had discussion questions and after about twenty minutes we reconvened and the girls presented what they had learned and we talked about the bigger picture lessons these women’s lives had to offer.  I thought I would share some of that discussion here, in the spirit of Christmas.

 

-Mary, Elizabeth and Anna did not have lives that fit “the plan.”  If the ideal (as is often presented in youth lessons) is getting married, having children, and living happily ever after none of these women got the perfect family life.  Mary had an unplanned premarital pregnancy.  The biological father was not present at the birth and did not participate in raising her son. Elizabeth lived to be old without having children in a culture that put even more emphasis on female fertility than our present church does.  Anna was a widow for a staggeringly long time, enjoying only seven years of marriage.  Instead of remarrying she chose a life of prayer and fasting, arguably a career of sorts.  Nobody had the sort of Ensign-cover perfect looking life.

 

-All three women had to be patient in serious trials and endure.

 

-God had not somehow forgotten these women because their lives didn’t follow the plan.  On the contrary, they prepared themselves for some of the most important missions ever performed by people on earth.  They were the first to witness of Christ’s divinity, the first disciples and the first missionaries.

 

-Mary and Elizabeth had extraordinary faith – they believed the impossible.  Many of the things we are asked to believe on faith have been taught to us our entire lives and we are prepared to try to believe in things like resurrection and eternal life.  While logically these might also seem impossible, we are taught and encouraged to gain a testimony helping to make faith easier.  Believing that a virgin or a post-menopausal woman could conceive children is not a central religious tenet (at least from the perspective of Mary and Elizabeth, in their time period).  They were asked to believe the impossible and their faith was great enough that they did.

 

-Mary was rational – she asked how it was possible that she would be pregnant given that she was a virgin.  I thought this was particularly interesting as I was studying because Zacharias also questions – he says, “whereby shall I know this?” and the angel strikes him dumb.  I thought maybe the difference was that Mary wasn’t questioning the truth of the message; she was asking to understand the mechanism of its fulfillment. Thoughts?

 

-The first people to gain a witness of Christ as a human person on earth were women.  Even before Joseph learned of Mary’s divine pregnancy Mary and Elizabeth shared a prophetic moment.  Likewise the Savior first appeared to women as a resurrected person. We talked about what this says about how God feels about women and their importance in eternal plans.

 

-Mary, Elizabeth and Anna all had the gift of prophecy.  A few weeks ago we talked about spiritual gifts and we discussed how none of them are gendered.  In our day we think only of the prophet and apostles as having the gift of prophecy, but very clearly all three of these women prophesied about the mission of the Savior on earth.  It was a nice tie-in to an earlier lesson about spiritual gifts.

 

-Anna and Simeon helped to prepare Mary to be a mother who would endure unimaginable emotional pain.  Simeon warned her that “a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also” and Anna likewise testified of Christ’s ministry.  During the Atonement Christ felt forsaken.  His apostles fell asleep and he even felt that Heavenly Father had withdrawn.  His mom stayed by him to the bitter end though, she stood right beside him as he died.  She had been prepared from his infancy for his mission.

 

-Mary “pondered in her heart.”  She thought about what she saw and heard and thought carefully about it.  She was introspective and cherished the spiritual experiences she had.

 

-Anna was a missionary.  The first thing she did after seeing the Savior was to go out and share the message with those that were looking for redemption.

 

I don’t remember everything we talked about, these are just some of the insights that the girls and leaders shared.  It was a sweet and powerful lesson, I love to see our girls stand up and teach about the women of the scriptures.  I love that we can talk about how hard life really can be and that they should be preparing spiritually to handle difficult realities.  I love that the women of the scriptures were real people living real lives and that we can come to know them.

 

Merry Christmas!

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10 Comments

  1. I LOVE this! Thank you for sharing.

  2. As I reread this I guess I made it look like God didn’t participate in raising the Savior when obviously Heavenly Father’s influence was felt. I’m sure you know what I meant.

  3. What a fantastic lesson. When I look away from the narrative I think I’m supposed to see, I’m often surprised by the richness of reality. What great insights into this story.

  4. Love this lot. I would like to have this discussion with my YW aged daughters.

  5. What a beautiful lesson. I love how you focused on women for a young women Christmas lesson.

  6. This is lovely, Em. I was thinking at church on the Sunday before Christmas about how little Christmas means to me. And I don’t mean to sound sacrilegious, but I do not connect with the birthing of Christ as spiritual (the conception seems more of a spiritual and sacred nature to me, but anyway…) I like the ritual of Christmas associated with the birth, but other than that– so me, the holiday is about service, reaching out– and giving gifts of time and monetary values to others– in other words, all about religious-inspired values, but not the religiosity of the day. As I sat through talks by 3 men on Sunday, and a musical interlude by the primary– and heard word after word about the wise men, male shepherds, Heavenly Father and all things male…I zoned out. As usual. In reading your post, I wondered what it would be like for me, and other women, if there was more focus — or ANY focus on the women in association with the miracle. I do not like the focus limited only to Mary, because the focus seems to always be on the physical birth … and really, women did so much more to support Mary and witness Christ’s divinity long before the shepherds or wise men.

    At any rate, this piece is lovely and made me pause to think about how disassociated I really am with the birth story. If there were more of a female focus, and a focus on the spiritual aspects of the women involved, I might be less drawn to think about what I can do to make Christmas somehow include me on a spiritual level outside of giving gifts.

  7. This is wonderful! Thank you for sharing. My 12-year-old sunday school class is comprised of four girls. I’ll incorporate parts of your wonderful lesson into mine this coming week. From my heart to yours: again, thank you, sister.

  8. I loved this too. It sounds like it fostered such insightful discussion. I have a sneaking suspicion I will come back to this many times and many Christmases.

  9. This is a beautiful idea! Did you tell the story of each woman? (I assume they know Mary, but I wonder if YW know who Anna and Elizabeth are.)

  10. I would have LOVED a lesson like this when I was a teen. Well done!!!

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