And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” Luke 1: 38
There’s this popular contemporary Christian song that is played on the radio this time of year called “Mary, Did you know?” It’s a really lovely tune and asks questions like “Mary, did you know that your baby born will someday walk on water?”.
I have to tell you that I have come to really dislike this song. I dislike it, for a number of reasons. I dislike it because I’ve heard it sung really badly (I’m a music snob – I confess – but here’s my advice “don’t sing louder than your guardian Angel can tune”). I dislike it because it shows that there is a big disconnect between what we have read about our faith and what we somehow have decided our scriptures say. (Yes, Mary knew – she was asked if she was willing and she said yes. She then sang what we now call The Magnificat – “My soul magnifies the Lord” showing that she fully understood what was happening.)
I mostly dislike this song because it totally trivializes the bravery of Mary, Jesus’ mother, to take the plunge to say ‘yes’ to God and bear God’s incarnation on the earth. The song makes the assumption that the only reason Mary would agree to bear Jesus was because she didn’t fully understand the ramifications of her decision – or that she romanticized the ramifications of her decision- even though our scriptures tell us that this was a decision she entered into with her eyes wide open.
I wish we knew more about Mary. I can’t imagine what life must’ve been like for her. My knowledge of cultural history from the 1st century C.E. tells me that she was probably pretty young, probably had been ‘betrothed’ from an even younger age, and certainly would’ve faced dire circumstances if she got pregnant before her actual marriage, and was pregnant by someone other than her ‘betrothed’. The dire circumstances, from my understanding could’ve even been death. So for her to say ‘yes’ to God is an act of incredibly trust and courage. At best, she was going to be marginalized even if Joseph married her (which he did – another courageous decision). At worst, she was going to be put to death.
And still, Mary said yes. And then sang “my soul magnifies the Lord”.
Have you had to be brave and say ‘yes’ to God? I posed this question to the Bible Study group this week, and while they all agreed that they haven’t been tested in the same way as Mary, that saying ‘yes’ to God is an incredibly act of bravery that they all have had to face. Bravery in the face of significant family disapproval. Bravery that has meant that relationships have been broken. Bravery that has meant that choices have been made that make no sense to the community around them. Bravery that has meant willingly walking in a different direction from the world around them.
Bravery to say yes to Good. Bravery that has said yes to God. Bravery that has granted new life and new salvation.
Today my pictures are of the manger scene that I have sitting on the back of my piano. I put it up every year and marvel at how ‘awful’ it really is. Mary and Joseph look like little kids. Mary and Joseph are little white kids; Mary has blond ringlets for heaven’s sake. Joseph has been knocked over so many times that his foot is broken and has to be propped up by the Christmas Bear (a stuffed bear with a chip that recites ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas in a voice that sounds like Lt Worf from Star Trek). We have an odd assortment of Christmas animals surrounding the scene that Clara the kitten keeps taking off with and scattering around the house. And the baby Jesus looks like a Victorian Baby in a cute little onesie. Its totally a classic version of trying to make our stories fit what we ‘think’ they should be rather than what they really are. But I put it up every year, because it makes me ponder and reminds me of Mary’s act of bravery and how hard it is to say ‘yes’ to God. And it reminds me of new life and new salvation.
Blessings today and remember you are Loved.