It seems inevitable that Christmastime evokes the most tender and loving feelings toward the Savior and His earthly family. The Christmas story is a family story. Indeed, the accounts we have in the New Testament of the birth of Christ, especially in Matthew and Luke, may be the most well-documented family history account ever given. Not only is there extensive and detailed genealogy recorded, but perhaps nowhere else in all of literature, whether religious or secular, is there a more tender and moving account of family unity, sacrifice, love, and service.
The Christmas story is a story of a family that connects heaven and earth. Each member of Jesus’s earthly family—Mary, Joseph, and Jesus—stands as supernal examples of God’s Christmas gift to all mankind. The Christmas story should spiritually motivate us to emulate the attributes of this holy family. This family was unified in seeking God’s glory; unified in serving one another; unified in fulfilling God’s will; and unified in sacrifice, obedience, and love. This holy family provides us a pattern of attributes that, when emulated by our own families, will enable us to enjoy the same blessings of unity and love they enjoyed.
Let’s first examine the attributes of Mary. Mary was hand chosen by God to be the mother of Jesus Christ. Out of all the women in the world, Heavenly Father chose a common woman who lived in the little town of Nazareth. She was not a woman of great wealth or stature, but she possessed the attributes of holiness, obedience, humility, and great faith.
Mary teaches us the importance of trusting in the Lord. Her faith in God was tested when an angel of the Lord informed her that she would miraculously give birth to the Savior:
“And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
“And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be
“And the angel said unto her, 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.
“Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
“And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. …
“And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.”1
The Christmas hymn “Once in Royal David’s City” relates the reality surrounding this choice daughter of God.
Once in royal David’s city
Stood a lowly cattle shed,
Where a mother laid her baby,
In a manger for his bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ her little child.2
Mary came to understand her true divine nature and willingly submitted to her unique maternal role. She found joy in being obedient, for she stated, “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.”3 Mary’s magnificent faith is demonstrated in her reverent confidence in Heavenly Father.
Let’s now examine the attributes of Joseph. Joseph was a man of humility and complete integrity. “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.”4 Now how would the natural man respond to this most unusual circumstance? Joseph responded with great spiritual maturity and integrity.
Elder James E. Talmage in his book Jesus the Christ shares his insight into this most unusual situation: “Now the Jewish law provided for the annulment of a betrothal in either of two ways—by public trial and judgment, or by private agreement attested by a written document signed in the presence of witnesses. Joseph was a just man, a strict observer of the law, yet no harsh extremist; moreover he loved Mary and would save her all unnecessary humiliation, whatever might be his own sorrow and suffering. For Mary’s sake he dreaded the thought of publicity; and therefore determined to have the espousal [annulled] with such privacy as the law allowed.”5
Joseph’s desire was to release Mary secretly from her obligation of marriage. Joseph was considerate of her well-being and her self-esteem, and he wanted to protect her as much as possible. While Joseph was deliberating on how to proceed with this delicate situation, this is what took place:
“But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
“And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins.
“Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,
“Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
“Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:
“And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus.”6
Just think how much Heavenly Father trusted Joseph. He trusted Joseph to raise His Beloved Son with loving care. He trusted Joseph to protect both Jesus and Mary. Joseph earned that trust because of his humility, his patience, his obedience, and his willingness to comply with the Lord’s will. He exhibited all of these attributes because he was first a man of complete integrity.
Now the example of Jesus Christ—Jesus fulfilled with perfect obedience His role as the Christ. He offers us the example of obedience, pure love, sacrifice, and loyalty to His Heavenly Father’s plan.
His example of obedience is illustrated as he submitted His will to the will of the Father. He declared to the Nephites: “Behold I have given unto you my gospel, and this is the gospel which I have given unto you—that I came into the world to do the will of my Father, because my Father sent me.”7 He led the way by doing the will of the Father, and the Father’s will was to have His Only Begotten Son pass through all the challenges of life that we may face and more. The prophet Alma testifies: “And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind. … And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people.”8
Jesus Christ also helps us understand the true meaning and importance of love by being the perfect example of this holy attribute and then commanding us to follow His example. In John 15, verses 10–13, we read:
“If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love.
“These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.
“This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
The pure love that Jesus Christ feels for us, His brothers and sisters, is exemplified through His sacrifice.
Yet through all these trials, Jesus demonstrated the perfect example of loyalty and submissiveness to the will of His Father: “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.”9 Jesus Christ was literally the perfect Son. He successfully demonstrated throughout His entire life all of the celestial attributes we will ultimately need to emulate in order to achieve our own exaltation.
Brothers and sisters, this holy family—Jesus Christ, Mary, and Joseph—provides a loving pattern of celestial attributes that, when emulated by us, will surely lead us back into the presence of God in the celestial kingdom. When we live the attributes demonstrated by this holy family on a daily basis, we will, in fact, be celebrating Christmas every day of the year, and we will come to understand the Christmas story as it truly is—a family history story that teaches us how to find joy in this life and in the life to come. Of this I bear solemn testimony, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.