If there’s one woman in the Bible that we love to look down on, I’m willing to bet it’s Mary.
I was looking at my two-year-old son across the table from me the other night and since it’s Christmas, it occurred to me, what was it like to mother two-year-old Jesus? Now, my son had just done something sassy, so I knew that aspect didn’t come into play for Mary.
That’s just what I meant when I said people look down on Mary. She’s portrayed in all story books and nativity scenes as sweet, gentle Mary. The mother of perfect baby Jesus, so unrelatable. Dock some points from Mary. We look at Mary the same way we look at the woman who has it easier, is doing better, is better than us. Eyeroll.
I didn’t really think much of Mary or feel anything like kinship with her until (as an adult) I heard another mom say something about Luke 2:19, “But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” And then I got her. She was just a mother like me.
Some of you are saying, “how can you say that?! This is the mother of our Lord!” Hang with me.
Let’s go back to the beginning. Young Mary is engaged to a poor but reputable man in King David’s line (Mostly unrelatable, -2 points). Then as she’s going about her business one day she’s stopped cold in her tracks by an angel (-15). The angel informs her that she is going to be the mother of the Son of God. She asks how this can happen, but not in unbelief like some other folks we know who were visited by angels (Moses, Sarah, Zechariah). Instead she responds in humble submission. Angel appearance, unrelatable. Fright and confusion, relatable. Humble submission to this crazy thing God is calling her to, totally unrelatable.
Mary goes to her cousin Elizabeth’s house, several days’ journey away. She’s excited and shocked and humbled and I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that she’s probably scared out of her mind. She’s making the trip to be with the one person who understands, to share her joy and provide solidarity in the miraculous and incomprehensible work of God. Barren until now, Elizabeth is going to give birth in her old age to a baby who will become the man set apart by God to be the forerunner of Jesus. Upon meeting each other they are caught up together in the glory of what God is doing and then Mary overflows with praises like something that only happens in a musical (-10).
When people zoom in on stories from the Bible they often do one of two things. They either project our culture’s attitudes and postures onto them or they make the person into an otherworldly saint. I don’t want to do either one. Mary is not a saint and there isn’t anything in scripture to indicate she has deity status. Neither do I want to make Mary in my own image as a beautifully broken, hot mess millennial.
Even still, the gospels plainly reveal some classic mom-fail moments. Remember when Mary and Joseph accidentally left Jesus in Jerusalem and couldn’t find him for three days? And then when she nagged Jesus about the wine at the wedding. Mary was a real human, a real mom with thoughts and feelings and sins. All the same, Mary was favored of the Lord.
Jumping back in to the timeline, moving a little more quickly now … Joseph and very-pregnant Mary make a long trek to Bethlehem. Jesus is born and the shepherds come telling about the hosts of angels in the sky. Jesus is presented to God at the temple and Simeon blesses them. Simeon says to Mary, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:34-35) Full stop.
Anna, a prophetess begins telling people about the Messiah, Mary’s son. The wise men from the East visit Jesus bringing very expensive gifts. Herod decrees that all the male children two-years old and under in the Bethlehem area are to be killed. In a dream Joseph is told to take his family and flee from Bethlehem to Egypt. After Herod’s death Joseph is told in another dream that it’s safe to go back to Nazareth. All along Mary is watching the prophecies of old be fulfilled in her little life with her little boy, the Emmanuel.
I don’t want to speculate about what cannot be known, but imagine what Mary might be feeling through all of this. The fear and shame and uncertainty at the beginning. The wonder and the awe and still more uncertainty. It’s not as if all was calm and bright after getting back to Nazareth. Life went on. Mary and Joseph had other children, Jesus grew up and we know how some of that played out.
Mary, as mothers do, stored it up and pondered these things in her heart. And then Simeon’s prophecy, watching her own son and Savior become the Savior of all mankind would be immensely heavy for her mother heart.
But humble Mary. She’s portrayed as lowly and gentle for good reason. She asked the angel in that first meeting how it would be so that she, a virgin would have a baby. The angel assured her, “For with God nothing shall be impossible.” Mary is already there, ready to submit. “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto to me according to thy word.” What could be more beautiful than that?
Now I know, how in the world did Mary not have a million questions and doubts and fears? I don’t think the point is that she wasn’t scared at times or perfectly trusted God’s plan. The thing with Mary is that she was willing. Amidst the chaotic, seemingly ludicrous, and dangerous circumstances surrounding that first Christmas Mary believed God and found favor with him.
She like Isaiah when called upon by the Lord willingly committed herself to his service and whatever he had for her, however wild, hard, and stressful.
She like another Mary, not Martha, submitted her plans to the Lord, listening and watching what he was doing. She was doing what was needful.
In the midst of our crazy and chaotic or our calm and bright we can walk willingly. Not because Mary did, but because Jesus is our Emmanuel. Under the cares of the world and our own souls this Christmas and with whatever God is calling us to in the new year, let it be true of us, too: I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.[/et_pb_text][/et_pb_column]