I've had Mary on my mind this Christmas season, as I think about how grateful I am for the unspeakable gift that God has given us in his Son. Although scripture only gives us a few glimpses into Jesus' childhood, we know the Christmas story doesn't end in the manger.
Mary played an incredible, immaculate role in God's gift of salvation. Not only did she carry our Savior, nurturing him near her heart in her womb, but once he was delivered she cared for his every need, she loved him, she guided him and she kept him safe. She was his mother, and she mothered him.
Luke 2:49 relates that the young Jesus, "...grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him" (ESV). We know that Jesus was, is, and always will be the ultimate in perfection. He does not change, and he will always be sinless. But in the gospel of Luke, we get a small inkling that sometimes it was challenging to raise even the most perfect child...
When Jesus was twelve years old, he and his family went to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast of Passover. Afterward the family caravan was headed back to Nazareth, and after a day's travel, Mary and Joseph realized that Jesus was not in their company. He had stayed behind to hear and question the teachers in the temple.
"And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, 'Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.' And he said to them, 'Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?'"
And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man" (Luke 2:48-49; 51-51 ESV).
This is the time of year when we take lots and lots of photos and videos of our children and grandchildren, dressed as little lambs in Christmas pageants, opening gifts under twinkling trees, or building snowmen with cousins that they haven't seen in a while. We want to hold on to those wonderful memories. But Mary didn't have the latest iPhone, or Facebook or Instagram. As she treasured up the memories of her precious, precocious Son in the chambers of her heart, did she know that he would one day become the Savior of the world?
The modern Christmas carol "Mary did you know?" - written in 1984 by Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene - helps us imagine what it might have been like for sweet Mary, still a very young woman herself, to understand the importance of what was taking place in that lowly stable 2000 years ago. Did she know? Could she possibly have had any idea who her infant Son would grow up to be?
Have you ever heard about The Song of Mary, also known as The Magnificat? The gospel of Luke says that the archangel Gabriel had come to announce to the young virgin that although she had never known a man, she would bear a Son who would be conceived of the Holy Spirit. That her Son would be the Son of God, our Savior. When this prophecy had been fulfilled in her, Mary went to visit her elder cousin Elizabeth whose pregnancy had also been foretold by the angel, and who was six months pregnant with John the Baptist. When the two mothers met they were immediately filled with the Holy Spirit, the babies leaped for joy, and Elizabeth prophesied over Mary, "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!" (Luke 1:1-42 ESV). Then Mary praised God and prophesied:
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.” (Luke 1:46b-55 ESV)
Did Mary know that her baby boy would one day walk on water? Probably not. But she knew, Beloveds. She knew because as he did with Isaiah, who prophesied about the coming Messiah:
"For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace" (Isaiah 9:6 ESV).
the Holy Spirit inspired Mary with the vision that her infant Son would one day be the Savior for the whole world.
In our Pentacostal tradition, we do not worship anyone but God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit (Deuteronomy 6:4). But, especially during the Christmas season, we can certainly call Mary the mother of our Lord and Savior, blessed; and those of us who have been blessed to be mothers and grandmothers can relate to her. She was a woman, like we are. She had joy and sorrow, like we do. She prayed over her children, and she fussed over them. I love Mary, and I am grateful for her. And one day, when I meet her in heaven and we share the stories we've treasured up in our hearts as mothers, I will thank her for the part she played - not only in the Christmas story, but in all our stories. I'm so grateful that her answer to God's annunciation was: "...Behold I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word..." (Luke 1:38b ESV). May we all be so humble and obedient!
I pray that you and your loved ones have a Blessed and Merry Christmas!
*To enjoy the song, Mary Did You Know? sung by CeeLo Green: watch the video and get the
lyrics at: https://binged.it/2RWOCHL
* To listen to J.S. Bach's Magnificat, please go to: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QQAWqqaUTHE&t=71s
*For more information on the painting, The Holy Night by Carlo Maratta, above:
- Many thanks to my dear friend, Wendy, for the inspiration for this post, with much love!