There’s Something About Mary
I have spent time this Advent Season reflecting on the courage and faith of Mary, a woman who remained faithful to God in the face of – at least in my view – incredible pressure and a potential death sentence. Certainly, showing up pregnant at one’s own wedding, in Mary’s day far more than now, was problematic. If Joseph had chosen to accuse her of adultery, as was his right, her penalty would have been death by stoning. Mary’s family cannot have been happy at Mary’s condition. Joseph’s family would have been unhappy as well. Yet, Mary chose obedience to God rather than to social convention. Luke’s gospel records Mary’s words, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
Sometimes, we Protestants aren’t sure what to do with Mary. She carried the Christ in her womb, raised him from infancy, and watched him die on a cross. She is certainly special. She is certainly faithful. She certainly went above and beyond what many of us would have been willing to do. In Luke 2:41-51 and Mark 3:20-21; 1-35, we see that Mary was concerned for her son Jesus. In the Luke passage, Jesus disappears from the family as they return to Nazareth after celebrating the Passover in Jerusalem. In Mark, Jesus appears to be “out of his mind.” In both instances, Mary goes looking for Jesus, to care for him, and in both instances Jesus’ response is not what one would expect.
There is something about Mary. She is not to be deified. She is not God or even a god. Yet, she is very special. She has willingly done something that no one else has ever done, or will ever do. She carried the Christ-child, gave him birth, changed his diapers, fed him, clothed him, educated him, and loved him as her son. She knew that he could never be fully hers, yet she never gave up and never gave in. Jesus was not the only son she lost, either. Her son James, Bishop of Jerusalem, was (according to tradition) martyred: thrown off the pinnacle of the Temple, and then clubbed to death.
What are we to do about Mary? It seems only right that we honor her for her commitment to God, for her loving care of her children, without whom we would not be Christian. While we are not to pray to her, she should be held in high esteem. Can we hold Augustine, Luther, Calvin, or Wesley in equal esteem? I think not. We should all aspire to be as faithful as Mary.
Christmas is, first and foremost, about the birth of the Christ. It is about the fulfillment of God’s redemptive plan for all creation. It is a time of celebration and wonder. It is a time for lights, trees, Christmas Carols, presents, family, and joy. It is about shepherds, angels, magi, and a star. It is about hope when all seemed hopeless.
But let’s not forget Mary. There’s something about Mary.
Merry Christmas in God’s Grace,