Mary Did You Know

 

It’s going to be another sleepless night.

This will be, what, my third in a row? Fourth? It has been just over a week since I met with the angel. I don’t think I have had a full night of sleep since.

At first, I was overjoyed. Who wouldn’t be? For hundreds of years, we have been waiting for the coming of the Messiah. For just as long, every young girl has dreamed that she would be the one to mother him. And it’s me. It’s me! My heart races at that thought. Whose wouldn’t?

But I don’t think any of those dreaming girls ever thought through the logical conclusions of their dream. At least, I don’t think any of them would have imagined they would have the same second thoughts I am struggling with now. I am not talking about abortion, I would never be that stupid. But I have been starting to realize that these next few months are not going to be easy. First of all, how on earth am I supposed to tell my parents? Hey mom, hey dad, I’m pregnant. Don’t worry, I’m still a virgin, though. Oh, and this angel told me that my baby is the Messiah. Can you imagine my dad even beginning to try and swallow that one? His daughter, who won’t even be old enough to get a drivers permit for another year and a half, is trying to tell him she is carrying the most important child in Israel’s history? Will he believe me? Would I believe me in his place? Not a chance.

And what about my friends at school? Do I dare even tell them? Do I dare not? How long can I keep going to my classes before I start to show? Do I drop out then, or should I start planning to do so immediately? There’s not a chance on God’s green earth that I will stay through the school year. I remember when Sarah married David. She was a couple years older and two grades above me. Even still, she was the talk of our class for weeks when Sarah was having her baby only five months after walking the aisle. She went from popular to outcast overnight. So what will they be saying about me? I will end up having my baby two months before my wedding.

If there even is a wedding. Father worked hard to arrange my engagement with Jo. He’s a good match. Yes, he’s almost twice my age, but he is wiser and more mature than any of the guys still in school. It also means he is set up in life. He has his own home and shop. He built it himself for goodness sake. He might not ever be wealthy, but he is kind. Mom says that is far more important.

For me, right now, that thought of his kindness is a lifeline. It is more than just our marriage that is at risk. It is my very life. Now that I am engaged to him, Joseph has every right to have me killed for adultery. No priest, no group of elders, would ever believe my defense. Kings are born in castles, not in the small home of a backwater village in Galilee. If I will even have a home soon.

Part of me knows that death isn’t a real possibility. After all, why would the angel have come to tell me that the baby is the Messiah if I am to be killed before he is even born? But knowing this with me head does not quiet down my heart enough to let me sleep.

So I live. So Jo doesn’t have me killed. That doesn’t mean he isn’t going to break off the engagement instead. It doesn’t mean the gossip will not spread like wildfire the moment word leaks. It doesn’t mean my parents aren’t going to kick me out of the house the moment I try sharing my news with them. Who is going to want a single, unwed, homeless mother?

It’s going to be another sleepless night.

–  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –  –

Mary, did you know. Who would have guessed that a song written by a comedian a couple decades ago would today be such an integral part of the soundtrack of Christmas? I think it is safe to say that this Christmas season, it will be one of the most viewed Christmas songs on youtube. I would also bet that there will be more covers of this than any other song created within the last fifty years as one artist after another puts out their holiday album. It is such a great, heart-gripping, singable song. Who can resist? If I had a voice worth listening to and if I were putting out a Christmas album, it would undoubtedly be on my list.

So who is this Mary that Mark Lowry and, thanks to him, millions of other people are singing to? Who is this woman that we are asking questions of? I have had some Muslim friends get confused when they find out that I do not believe Mary is part of the Trinity. Apparently, they were taught that Christians believe the Trinity is God the Father, Son, and Mother. The funny thing is, the Quran actually mentions Mary more times than the New Testament does. According to Islam, she was born sinless. She was born miraculously to a couple in old age and dedicated from birth to the Temple. There in the Temple, Mary was given a specific room in which to pray. In that room, she was miraculously fed and placed under the guardianship of her uncle Zechariah. At the annunciation of the birth of Jesus, she was declared the greatest woman in the history of the world and made sinless (from what I’ve read, most Muslim scholars view this as a statement on her perpetual virginity). She gave birth while eating dates under a palm tree, and when she returned with the baby to the Temple, the newborn Jesus defended her against her skeptics. At this last point, I cannot but think of the cigar-smoking “baby” from Who Framed Roger Rabbit. He stands up in his crib, wags a finger at the Pharisees, and says, “You pwiests outta be ashamed of yourselves.”

Anyways, except for the last bit, that is how Muslims view Mary. What about Catholics? Although they do not worship Mary as divine, it sometimes seems they come close. With some of the statements some Catholics will make, it is no wonder why our Muslim brothers would claim they do. The thing is, most of the Catholic doctrine of Mary does not come from the Bible but from a text called the Protoevangelion of James. The first record of the Protoevangelion we have was by Origin. He called the document a recent writing and clearly false. Innocent the First, is today considered one of the early popes. He was writing not long after Origin when he also condemned it as false. It was not at any time included as part of the canon by any of the early church councils. At least one council explicitly rejected it. Even Thomas Aquinas, the most celebrated religious scholar in RCC history, rejected it. Even still, it is only in this writing that you will find things like Mary’s perpetual virginity, the announcement of her birth, and her dedication to God from that time onward.

A common prayer to Mary begins, “Hail Mary full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed are thee among women…” This actually brings to mind a time when Jesus was teaching. A woman in the crowd raised her voice and shouted out, “Blessed is your mother—the womb from which you came, and the breasts that nursed you!” Jesus did not deny that his mother was blessed. However, he wanted to make sure people kept things in perspective, so he replied, “But even more blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice.” According to Jesus, you and I can be even more blessed than Mary, just so long as we obey Him.

This last statement might sound like heresy to some of you reading me. It actually does line up with what Mary herself has said. In all of scripture, there is only one command that Mary gives. Do you know what it is? She said, “Do whatever He [Jesus] tells you to do.” Her only command in all of scripture is that we obey the commands of Jesus. Jesus commands are more along the lines of “come to me, follow me, do what I tell you, listen to my words, and put them into practice.” It is made very clear that Jesus loved and respected his mother. At twelve, he chose to return home with her and dad rather than stay in the Temple. At twelve, Jesus had the right to do this and begin learning from the greatest rabbinical scholars of His time. But he chose his parents instead. Jesus also made it a point to see that she would be cared for even as he was dying on the cross. Jesus loved his mother, but he never pointed to her as one worthy of adoration, or even emulation.

So who is Mary? She was a girl, probably in her early teens or maybe even younger when she was first visited by Gabriel. Mary was still unmarried, which meant she was not far past her first bleeding. Mary had relations who served in the Temple, but she was just a small-town girl who became a young mother of at least three kids. Two of the books in the Bible are written by Jesus’ brothers. In short, Mary was just a normal girl who loved God and wasn’t all that different than you and I. Yes, she was used by God for one of the greatest miracles in the history of humanity. That was because of God’s grace, not her own goodness. She was simply a child who said, “Let it be to me, just as you have said.” Did she have any idea what she had just agreed to with those ten simple words?

Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you

Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God

Mary did you know, Mary did you know, Mary did you know

The blind will see, the deaf will hear and the dead will live again
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, the praises of the lamb

Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you’re holding is the great I am

Mary did you know, Mary did you know, Mary did you know

7 thoughts on “Mary Did You Know

  1. Our minister recently did a Sunday School lesson on “Mary, did you know ?”. Seems he doesn’t like the song and finds the question very objectionable and insulting to both God and Mary. The class concluded that yes, she knew but the knowledge grew more intense with each passing day of the life of Jesus. Despite any discussion, I’d say she certainly knew that day at the cross but the idea becomes profoundly certified as she watched and listened to him preach. Some say the song minimizes the glory of Mary. On the other hand, it’s just a song, a song of celebration and can be enjoyed as such without any theological implications.

    • I think eventually she realized what exactly Jesus’ incarnation meant, but almost certainly not at first. When you look at Mary’s song in Luke one, her vision of the Messiah and what God was doing fits in well with the typical first-century Jewish vision of one who is coming to bring justice and judgment. John the Baptist made the same mistake as did the apostles. It’s understandable after all. They were all human even if richly blessed to be able to meet and walk and talk with the Savior. Mary even more so as she was the one who had the privilege of raising him, along with Joseph. James and his other brothers as well for the privilege of growing up with such an older brother. But even still they are only human.

      It is good to remember that when Mary and her other sons were coming to see Jesus, he said to the crowd that anyone who does the will of the Father in heaven is Jesus’ mother and brother. So he puts all of us who follow Him on a par with Mary, James, et al.

      • “on a par with” That seems like a reasonable conclusion in the sense of community but I would never see myself so worthy to be so elevated. If indeed this is the case , however, what wonderful company of which to be a part.

  2. I love this song. I was singing with a friend in my makeshift studio on Christmas Day. Oh, how magnificent and yet terrifying to know that God would use both of them to bring forth and raise the son of God. What tremendous faith they had.

    • Yes. Hail Mary, full of grace, blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.

      I see absolutely nothing wrong with this portion of the prayer. It is the second half, and the theological implications of the second half that make the prayer heresy.

      Hail Mary, mother of God…

      The actual title Theotokos I don’t have a problem with per se, but it is too easily misunderstood both by many who use it and many detractors. While it actually means little more than that Mary gave birth to Jesus, who was God, there are implications that Mary was the mother of God, from eternity. This misunderstanding was common enough that down through history, the entire Muslim world has believed that it is what Christians claim. It is a big part of why the historical Mohammad was so adamantly opposed to Christianity. Someone misunderstanding, taught him that misunderstanding of Theotokos.

      …pray for us sinners…

      Again, on its face there is nothing wrong with this. James encourages us to confess our sins one to another (this is bi-directional, not just laity to the priest, but that is another issue), and to pray for each other. Asking someone to pray for you is a good and a biblical thing to do. Asking someone who is already dead to do so… not so much. According to Romans 15:30 the living can intercede for the living, but the dead cannot do so.
      Beyond this, Jesus is the intermediary between us and the Father. I am sure you do not believe this, but many people take this prayer and implications to believe that Mary, somehow, is a necessary intermediary between us and God. This is a heresy that both Jesus and Paul very, very strongly condemned.

      …now and at the time of our death…
      At the moment of death, it is too late to pray for the dead. If someone is deceased, I can mourn for them, I can grieve them, I can miss them. but I cannot pray for them. They are dead. Anything I, or anyone else might say on their behalf is nothing more than wasted air. It is appointed for a man once to die, and then the judgment. What we do in this life, more specifically, what we have done with regards to the atoning sacrifice made on our behalf, is what matters. Prayers said for the dead, at best, are just wasted time and air. At worst, it is heresy. Prayers said for the dead by the dead? Mere fancy. Prayers said by the living, to the dead, to ask them to pray for us once we have died? This has got to be some joke, right? Sadly, hundreds of thousands quite specifically say just such a prayer over and over again as a mantra (or a vain repitition also condemned by Jesus in Matthew 6) as if it actually means something.

      • I see. I hope not to start an argument, but I will say that Muslims and other unitarian religions also have rather insanely false interpretations of the trinity (i.e. some accuse Christians of tritheism or worshipping some sort of three-headed monster). I don’t know of any group which claims to be Christian that believes that Mary was the mother of God from all eternity or generated His divine essence in some way.

        I can explain intercession of the saints from a Catholic perspective if you like, but I know some bloggers don’t want to start debates in the comments, so I shall wait, unless you want me to explain it.

        I could also explain the doctrine of Purgatory and the verse about vain repetition if you like, but again, I’m not sure if you want me to do so at this moment.

        Thank you. I think I understand your points better.

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