Given the marriage customs of her day, Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ, was younger than the average age of the modern-day bride when an angel appeared to her and announced, “Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:30-33); (see also the chapter on Mary in my "Extraordinary Courage: Women Empowered by the Gospel of Jesus Christ").
It is not hard to imagine the shock and wonderment such an announcement would evoke in the mind of someone so young and innocent. Yet Mary’s response is telling, helping us understand the grandeur and magnificence of the woman chosen to be mother to the Son of God and Savior of the world.
She replied, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word” (Luke 1:38). At the outset and for the rest of her life, a willingness to obey God, trust him and do his will permeates all of Mary actions.
The sublime role of women, their devotion to the Savior Jesus Christ and his love and respect for them must not be forgotten as we celebrate the advent of the Son of God into the world at Christmastime.
We are taught that both women and men are integral to the gospel of Jesus Christ, “Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:11).
Further, as Eliza R. Snow, a 19th-century poet and the second general Relief Society president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, so poignantly captured in her beloved hymn: “In the heavens are parents single?/ No, the thought makes reason stare!/ Truth is reason; truth eternal/ Tells me I’ve a mother there … When I leave this frail existence,/ When I lay this mortal by,/ Father, Mother, may I meet you/ In your royal courts on high?” (see "O My Father," Hymns, No. 292).
The contribution of women was, and is, paramount to the gospel of Jesus Christ and when one carefully reads, it is easily noted and teased out of the record. Further, the place Jesus accorded women in his kingdom speaks volumes about their nature, their devotion, their potential and possibilities.
As was the case for the baby Jesus, all infants are wholly reliant, incapable of independently surviving at birth. The process to life begins long before the child is born, as the mother offers her body, her womb, as a place for the child to gestate. Finally, the time for the child’s birth arrives and the mother, as both science and scripture testify, goes down “into the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalms 23:4) to give her child life(see Emma Gary Wallace's "The Homiletic Review," Vol. 83).
As glorious as was Christ’s birth — testified to by angels and myriad individuals who made their way to the lowly, magnificent stable in Bethlehem — it was soon necessary for Joseph and Mary to flee. As refugees, taking very little with them, Joseph and Mary willingly made their way to Egypt. Thereafter, as his mother, Mary, both taught and learned from Jesus, sacrificed for him and had her soul pierced and shattered as she watched her beloved, perfect son suffer a reprehensible death on the cross.
Many other women also played prominent roles in testifying of Christ’s life and mission:
• When Christ was taken prisoner, his apostles fled for fear of their lives, yet his devoted female disciples followed his torturous path to the cross and remained with him until his heartbreaking death (see Matthew 27:55-56).
• His beloved Mary and Martha accompanied Jesus to the tomb of their brother, Lazarus, and witnessed the Son of God raise their brother from the dead (see John 11:1-44).
• It was Mary, the first mortal to see the resurrected Lord, who was sent by the Master to testify to the the apostles of Christ’s ascension to his Father. (John 20:17)
The list could be greatly extended.
As Elder Matthew Cowley, who served in the LDS Church's Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, testified, “There were … incidents which would indicate a wavering of devotion on the part of his brethren. There was never, on the other hand, time nor occasion when the devotion of the women to the Savior could have been questioned. The constant affection, loyalty and devotion of the Marys and the other women were evident under every condition” (see "Matthew Cowley Speaks: Discourses of Elder Matthew Cowley of the Quorum of the Twelve of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints").
Christmas is a time to celebrate the birth and life of Jesus Christ, but men and women must never forget the critical role of women, the respect and honor Christ always showed women and the importance of each woman’s continued devotion to him and his timeless teachings.
Mary, the Mother of Jesus
Mary, the Mother of Jesus, from the Bible Video series.
Kristine Frederickson writes on topics that affect members of the LDS Church worldwide in her column “LDS World." She teaches part time at BYU. Her views are her own.