Please know that "Mary, Did you Know?" is one of my favorite Christmas songs. And while I am poking fun at it a bit, I do think it has some good points.
While Mary knew some things I am sure she didn't know everything. I am certain that there were many surprises as she mothered Jesus. I wouldn't mind trying to mother a perfect child, but I think it's possible she often felt puzzled at what she was supposed to offer this unusual little person. She was young, I think she was probably in her late teens, and I know that if I was her I would have resolutely avoided thinking about what the future would hold for my tiny, precious child.
Another point in favor of the song, it seems pretty rhetorical. It's not like she can actually answer the question, after all.
So, how do we know what Mary knew? Well, she told us.
(Here's the song, in case you have no idea what I'm talking about. This is my favorite rendition. Please note there is probably going to be an ad before you watch it.)
Everyone loves Luke chapter 2. I think it's the chapter that most churches choose to read during their Christmas services, and that's great. Today, let's look at Luke chapter 1.
The chapter opens with Luke telling us that while many people have written this down, he is going to do it as well. Since his account was chosen by the early church, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to be part of the canon we know that it is 100% accurate.
Next, we see the account of the conception of John the Baptist. John was a key player. He was the forerunner of Christ. His birth was momentous and preceded the birth of Christ by approximately six months. When Elizabeth was about six months along with John, Mary came to her. John was the first person to recognize the presence of Christ. He alerted his mother by leaping within her womb. Later, John baptizes Christ in the Jordan and is witness to the presence of the Trinity.
In Luke chapter one, Mary hears from the angel Gabriel. He tells her that even though she is a virgin she will conceive and bear a child, and that this child will be the promised Messiah. The fact that she is a virgin is key, it fulfills the prophecy found in Isaiah and tells us that this birth is divine.
Mary agrees to fulfill the Word of God, and the angel departs.
What then? Luke tells us that Mary "made haste" and went into the hill country to be with her cousin, Elizabeth. Perhaps she was sent away until everything was sorted out. Maybe her parents were worried that Joseph wouldn't understand, or that the neighbors would try to have her stoned. At any rate, Mary spent three months with her cousin. Not just any cousin, but a woman who was older, perhaps wiser, and very devout.
Elizabeth hadn't had any children until she became pregnant with John the Baptist. Her husband was a priest. I am sure she had plenty of time to sit with Mary and mentor her. I don't know if Mary was worried about how her cousin would receive her, but Elizabeth knew immediately what had happened and welcomed her.
Mary clearly knew that she was giving birth to the Savior of the world. Not only did the angel tell her, but Elizabeth did as well. Elizabeth's greeting confirms the angel's message. She also tells us in verse 45 that Mary believed that the angel's word, and the words of the prophets, would be fulfilled.
Now comes Mary's section. Luke 1:46-55.
The image here is "Madonna Litta," commonly thought to be painted by Leonardo DaVinci. Yes, Mary breastfed. Stop making it weird.
Mary is rejoicing that God has chosen her, and she is humbled by His attention. In fact, she is so respectful that she doesn't even dare to use God's name but instead refers to Him as "my Savior" and "He who is mighty."
Mary knows that all generations will call her blessed, because she was chosen to carry and raise the Messiah who would save the world. She recognizes God, her Savior, as Someone who is both merciful and strong. She sees Him as someone who takes pity on the poor and isn't swayed by the power of the rich. She knows that Israel is the servant of God and that God is watching out for the nation, even though things may have looked bleak under Roman rule. She refers back to the promises made to the patriarchs, especially Abraham, and she knows God will be with them forever.
That's a lot of theology for a teenager.
Can you almost hear her saying this? She meets an angel, becomes pregnant, and is hustled about 100 miles away from her home to stay with her cousin Elizabeth. The whole time, this song is bursting within her. She certainly isn't visibly pregnant at this stage, maybe she felt queasy or maybe she was fit as a fiddle. Either way, it's almost as though she had to wait to give voice to the song within her until she came to her cousin.
Mary knew. She knew! She knew she was carrying the promised Messiah, she knew He was coming to save the world (or at least Israel) and she knew that God was her Savior.
We know that, too. In fact, we know a great deal more than Mary did at this time because we have access to the entire story.
This Christmas season, use the knowledge that God has given us to lead others to Him. Mary could hardly wait to give voice to her praise and wonder.
What's stopping us?
Changing Lives Together
Sarah M. Bowen