Growing up as a Baptist, Mary wasn’t much more than a side note to the ultimate story of Jesus. However, I have recently become obsessed with this woman. As a Christian, I believe that Jesus is the Son of God. I believe in the Immaculate Conception. I believe that Jesus was born to save humanity through his wisdom, his miracles, and his ultimate sacrifice.
But outside of Christmas, and mostly because of the nativity scenes, I really hadn’t given Mary much thought. When I did think about her, it wasn’t very positive. Largely because so much of what was taught to me about Mary had to do with her being a virgin. That is what they called her, “The Virgin Mary.” And, no offense to other virgins, but her virginity, didn’t make me think of her as special. To me, the term, “Virgin Mary,” is no different than describing her as “tall Mary, or short Mary, or Brunette Mary,” basically; none of those are adjectives that describe a person’s character.
However, recently I begin to reread the story with a new lenses and the wholeness, the awesomeness, the greatness of Mary began to become clear to me. Mary was a young immigrant, living under Roman rule. She was probably illiterate, poor, and very low on the social stratus. She was also betrothed to Joseph. Jewish people during that period had a multi-step marriage process; Mary was intended to marry Joseph but had to wait until she was older, probably puberty.
Anyways, so God, the God of the Universe, the God of creation, the one true God, had to find a way to bring his son to earth. Now, as a believer in the Bible, God could have created Jesus in any way he wanted, using any one he wanted. But instead of creating Jesus from scratch (like the Genesis story), or choosing someone in the royal Jewish class, or someone rich, God chose Mary. And, by every account she was nothing special. Unlike other women in the Bible, there is no mention of her beauty, her charisma, her intelligence, or any other characteristics that we use to identify great women.
What is mentioned is so simple and so profound, the angel Gabrielle simply said to Mary, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Then he basically asked her to risk her life, her reputation, her future, for a mission. Now, this doesn’t get highlighted in church but it is important to be very clear what God was asking her to do. He was asking her to:
1. Get pregnant while engaged to another man
2. Risk her family reputation
3. Risk the punishment (often beatings or death) that happens to women who are adulterous
4. Raise the Son of God and prepare Him to save the people of the earth
For sure, Mary understood what the Lord was requesting of her; her reputation, her relationship with her family, and her life, yet, without hesitation, Mary answered, “I am the Lord’s Servant. May our word to me be fulfilled.”
Every day, I am beaten down with fear by societies expectation of what I should look like, talk like, behave like, and so on. When I get overwhelmed, I think of the courage and braveness of Mary of Nazareth, and I try and channel one ounce of her courage and faith. Through choosing Mary, for the ultimate holy mission, God demonstrated whom He finds favor with, and God favors those who are faithful and fearless.
Merry Christmas and thank you, Mary, for saying, yes, and giving the world the greatest gift of all, your son, Jesus Christ.