In a little stable about 2,000 years ago, our Lord was born into the world. He was a tiny infant who would grow to be our Healer, our Salvation, and our Messiah. This month, we’ve looked at several figures that were present at Christ’s birth and how they represented Him and His life (those articles are linked at the bottom of this page). Now, with it being the week of Christmas, it’s time to talk about the most important figures in the birth of Christ – the infant Jesus and His parents.
The Infant and the Parents at Christ’s Birth
I’m often in awe of the people our Father in Heaven trusted to be His Son’s earthly parents. Mary is described as so sweet and gentle. It’s hard to imagine that she had imperfections, but she was human. She still had flaws and challenges like the rest of us. But I think for her to be Christ’s mother, she must have demonstrated incredible charity, patience, and service. Most importantly, I think she was obedient in every way she could be. Her example would have shaped His childhood and helped Him to choose the kind of submission and obedience that His mission required.
Joseph was placed in a difficult situation, and it’s so clear by how he handled it just how good he was. Maybe he didn’t always want to obey the directions given by God’s angels. Maybe he struggled with the responsibility of protecting the Messiah through His childhood. And yet, even when it was challenging or frustrating or painful, Joseph chose to trust God and obey Him. That faith and reliance is another incredible example that would have shaped Jesus’s childhood.
As good as these two people were, the night of Christ’s birth must have been utterly terrifying. They were alone in Bethlehem, staying in a pathetic little stable for shelter, and they’d only had a few months to prepare for the reality of raising the Messiah from infancy to adulthood. Odds are that Mary and Joseph were extremely young parents by our standards – somewhere in their teens, though Joseph would probably have been a few years older than Mary.
To be tasked with such a responsibility as raising and protecting the Savior, who would save them along with every other person to ever live in the world, at such a young age is overwhelming just to think about. Actually living with that responsibility is incomprehensible to me.
So that night, facing this reality, Mary and Joseph must have faced an intense test of faith.
And then He came.
As terrified as they might have been, I’m sure they would have also been overwhelmed with peace the moment they saw Him. That innocent, perfect Infant entered into their lives just the way He needed to. And He does the same for us now.
What an Infant Teaches Us About Christ.
Jesus is the central figure of His birth. He was the infant who changed everything for the world. But aside from the literal significance of His birth, I think there’s some symbolism in Him coming into the world in almost the same way the rest of us do.
Let’s talk about infants for a moment. Infants are pure and innocent. They are fresh from the presence of God, and you can feel it when you’re around them. As the central figure of His own birth, Christ grew to embody the purity and innocence as an adult that is inherent in babies. That representation of Him as a baby in the manger in all those Nativity scenes is a reminder of who He chose to be His whole life – a sinless, perfect Person living close to God.
His innocence and purity are part of what made Him the only One who could sacrifice for our sins and fulfill an atonement. He was able to pay for our lives because He owed nothing Himself.
How Christ is a Parent
Mary and Joseph, though they may not have realized it, also work as symbols of Christ and His life. In Mosiah, it says:
1 …I would that ye should understand that God himself shall come down among the children of men, and shall redeem his people.
2 And because he dwelleth in flesh he shall be called the Son of God, and having subjected the flesh to the will of the Father, being the Father and the Son—
3 The Father, because he was conceived by the power of God; and the Son, because of the flesh; thus becoming the Father and Son—Mosiah 15:1-3
Though Christ was literally the infant the night of His birth, He proved to be the Son of God and the Father of us all. When He performed His Atonement, He made it possible for each of us to be reborn – born of the Spirit. Because Christ is the One who made our rebirth possible, He is our Father.
His relationship with us goes beyond that, however. Parents (or parental figures) are people who are concerned with our well-being, who love us and serve us and sacrifice for us. They shape our worlds and our understanding.
Christ does the same for us. He loves us so much that He sacrificed His life for us. He chose to experience our pain and suffering and guilt so He could know us better than we even know ourselves. He serves us mercifully, teaches us, and guides us. Most of all, He demonstrates the love of our literal Father in Heaven, who is our perfect, divine Father.
Christ is many things for us. We can see Him work in our lives in so many ways. The miracle and event of His birth set the stage literally and symbolically for the rest of His life. Many of the figures represented His character and His mission, and in the past few weeks, we’ve only touched the surface of how significant those figures are.
Understanding the symbols at His birth helps us understand Christ better. It may take us our whole lives to know Him as well as we want to, but looking for Him in these symbols and in other stories can help us know Him more personally.
So this week, take some time to think about these symbols and ask yourself what you learn about Him. Put your focus on Him, and this will be a most memorable Christmas because He will truly be at the center of it all.
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