What did Mary know?

Readings for December 24, 2017

2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8-12, 14, 16
Psalm 89
Romans 16:25-27
Luke 1:26-38


My youngest daughter says that the song, “Mary did you know?” is one of the Christmas songs that stays in her head all year long. While, personally, “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas” is the song stuck in my head, the question of the song “Mary did you know?” is more worthy of consideration throughout the year.

The lyrics of the song “Mary did you know?” essentially ask, “Mary did you know that your baby would grow up to be a miracle working savior?” According to what is recorded and reported in Luke’s Gospel, Mary was visited by an angel who told her she would become pregnant, have a boy, the boy would be called the Son of God and reign as King forever. For good measure, of course, the angel mansplained, “Don’t worry, it’s all gonna be ok – God loves you. You know, your really old cousin is pregnant and her husband has been rendered mute. God did that! See? It’s all good!” With that, Mary said “yes” and then the angel left. ‘Nuf said, I guess. So Mary knew her son would be the Son of God, but was probably just as overwhelmed as I would have been by all those extra details. For her part, as I like to tell my niece, Mary was likely “always amazed, but never surprised.”

Mary had only one question for the angel, “how is this going to happen?” Rather than asking for any specific details or instructions, she pondered. She held things within her heart. Now if it were me, I would have had a lot more questions, but I suppose “how is this going to happen?” would have been my first one too. Mary, having been raised in a faithful Jewish family, would have known well the Messianic prophesies throughout scripture, drawing hope from the prophesy in 2 Samuel that the House of David would be an eternal Kingdom. That said, the religious leaders of the time knew those same scripture prophesies and many were unable to say “yes” to Jesus as their Messiah. And Mary had more at stake – she was 13 or 14 years old, engaged but unmarried, and apparently about to become pregnant with God’s Son, give birth in a barn in her new husband’s hometown, be greeted by shepherds, host a baby shower with a caravan of traveling star-gazers, and then flee to Egypt to avoid the jealous rage of a local tetrarch. Yet she persevered in unwavering faith, all the way through to Calvary.

While Mary “found favor with God,” it seems fair to ask, “Mary did you know it would be this hard?” Perhaps not, but I can be assured that, as the angel proclaimed, the Lord was with her. Mary unquestioningly accepted both the joys and struggles as her encounter with the divine. Mary lived St. Paul’s words of having “obedience of faith,” giving “glory forever.” The same, I suppose, should be expected from me. My struggles as well as my joys are divinely given and offer an opportunity to cooperate with God in His plan for my salvation.

Despite being similarly called, unlike Mary, I must admit catching myself saying yes when I perceive there will be a tangible payoff. My “yes” can often be more of a “yes, but …” In seeing and trying to understand Mary’s encounter with the divine, I get a sense of what it must be like for God to love me. My response to life’s burdens do not seem to compare equally to the faithful love I receive from God. I am disobedient, but He still loves me. I make things difficult, but He still loves me. I want answers and my own understanding, but He still loves me. Mary gives me an example of how to say “yes” to God and let God be God, even when doing so seems to lead to difficulties. If “the promises of the Lord I will sing forever,” then forever needs to mean more than when I feel suitably affirmed for my faithfulness. I need to take time to ponder, to hold things in my heart, and turn to God with praise and thanksgiving in all things and at all times.

I don’t know all that Mary knew, but I know what Mary chose – she chose God. She said yes, believing in the promises of God. God asks the same of me. With Mary as my example, I must respond with my own praise-filled, unquestioning “yes.”

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