Guest Author - Terrie Lynn Bittner
Note: This is the third topic in an annual series of family home evening lessons based on the nativity. In previous years, we have discussed the shepherds and the wise men. This year, we will learn about Mary and Joseph, with a focus on we, like them, can accept the hard callings and assignments given to us by our Father in Heaven. While this lesson is more suited to older family members, adaptations are given for children.
Attention Activity: Ask each family member to consider the hardest thing God has ever asked them to do. Invite them to share this if they wish, including an explanation of how they felt and how they dealt with it. You may want to ask family members to consider this in advance, perhaps writing about it for their personal histories on Sunday. Then those who would like to do so may share their writing with the family. You might ask one person in advance to be prepared to share, telling him he may discuss any hard assignment from God, in the event he prefers not to share the very hardest one.
Background: Read the Christmas story together in the Bible. (Choose whichever book of the Gospels you prefer. As your family reads, taking turns, ask them to think about Mary and Joseph, who they must have been and which scriptures tell you what type of people they were, and how they might have felt at each point in the story. If you have small children, you might prefer to use the Illustrated Scriptures, or tell the story in your own words, using your nativity set to illustrate.
Mary and Joseph: Set out Mary and Joseph from your favorite nativity set. If you don’t have one, you might want to have your children make one on the Sunday or Monday before. You can find one in the Friend. (Dec. 1982). Ask your family what kinds of people they think Heavenly Father chose to raise His Son.
For families with teens and adults: Read Mary and Joseph by Robert J. Matthews (Robert J. Matthews, “Mary and Joseph,” Ensign, Dec. 1974, 13 and Mary, His Mother. (Susan Easton Black, “Mary, His Mother,” Ensign, Jan. 1991, 10) Direct them to look for clues to the types of people Mary and Joseph were. You may want to give copies to each person. If you also have younger children, first read their story and let them color while the older people read.
For families with young children: Read Jesus Grew Up in a Righteous Family. (Jesus Grew Up in a Righteous Family,” Friend, Dec. 2004, 17) This includes a picture to color.
They Accepted the Challenge: Becoming a parent and agreeing to raise any of God’s children is a special challenge, and most parents are nervous. They want to do a good job. You may want to ask a parent in the family to share their feelings about becoming parents.
How do you think Mary and Joseph felt when they were told they were not just raising one of God’s children, but the Son chosen to be the Savior? What goals might they have set to do a good job of doing this? What do you think the Savior learned as He watched them fulfill their duty to Him and to his Father in Heaven? What do you think Mary and Joseph learned about the Gospel and themselves as they met this great challenge?
We can accept the challenge, as well: God often gives each of us challenges. These challenges might come from trials, callings, or new experiences. Sometimes the challenges are frightening because the responsibility is large, or the task seems too hard. Sometimes the trial seems to be more than we can bear. Display the following quote by Marvin J. Ashton: Usually there are no easy answers to most of our problems. Each individual must think, plan, work, and pray to find the help he needs and the courage he must have to conquer his problem or carry his cross—whatever his lot may be. Winners set achievable goals day by day. Their plans consist of things that can be done, not what can’t be done. They remember that God has not given us the spirit of fear, but the power of love and of a sound mind. (Marvin J. Ashton, “Adversity and You,” Ensign, Nov. 1980, 54)
Application: If your family is facing a special trial or challenge right now, use this time to talk about how we, like Mary and Joseph, can accept the challenge facing us in a way that will help us to grow, and also allow us to reach out to others. Set goals individually and together to come through the storm with a lovely rainbow of faith and increased testimony.
If your family is not facing something together, ask each person to write on a sheet of paper a challenge he is facing. (You should be prepared to offer suggestions if needed.) These can be kept private unless the person chooses to share. Next, write three ways you can face the challenge with courage, the proper spirit, and an eye toward becoming stronger and better at the end.
Share some of the following quotes (Select those that apply to your family’s needs.):
C. S. Lewis wrote: “The great thing, if one can, is to stop regarding all the unpleasant things as interruptions of one’s ‘own,’ or ‘real’ life. The truth is of course that what one calls the interruptions are precisely one’s real life—the life God is sending one day by day.” (They Stand Together: The Letters of C. S. Lewis to Arthur Greeves, ed. Walter Hooper, London: Collins, 1979, p. 499.)
“I believe that perseverance is vital to success in any endeavor, whether spiritual or temporal, large or small, public or personal. Think seriously of how important perseverance, or the lack of it, has been in your own endeavors, such as Church callings, schooling, or employment. I believe that essentially all significant achievement results largely from perseverance.
By applying this principle, some of our finest legacies have been produced. For example, John Milton was blind when he wrote Paradise Lost. Ludwig von Beethoven was deaf when he finished some of his greatest musical compositions. Abraham Lincoln was laughed at as a gangling, awkward country boy who had many failures; but he became one of the greatest and most eloquent presidents of the United States. Florence Nightingale devoted her life to save the lives of countless wounded soldiers. All of these people left a permanent mark on the world. Their example should give hope to all of us. They succeeded not only because the Lord had endowed them with gifts, as he has each of us in varying degrees, but because they applied themselves steadfastly.
Of course, the ultimate example of perseverance is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who has and will overcome every obstacle in doing the will of our Heavenly Father. Indeed, Jesus is perfect in perseverance and has taught us to be perfect even as he and his Father are perfect (see 3 Ne. 12:48). Studying his life can help us learn and live this important principle. (Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Never Give Up,” Ensign, Nov. 1987, 8)
Be assured that there is a safe harbor. You can find peace amidst the storms that threaten you. Your Heavenly Father—who knows when even a sparrow falls—knows of your heartache and suffering. He loves you and wants the best for you. Never doubt this. While He allows all of us to make choices that may not always be for our own or even others’ well-being, and while He does not always intervene in the course of events, He has promised the faithful peace even in their trials and tribulations. (Joseph B. Wirthlin, “Finding a Safe Harbor,” Ensign, May 2000, 59)
Present each family member with a picture of Mary and Joseph (you can find these in nearly every December issue of each church magazine) and ask them to place it where they will see it often. Put the goals set by each person for a current challenge in an envelope and challenge them to review it each Sunday, and to record in their journals their progress in achieving them.
Mary, Joseph, and Baby, Porcelain