Author Kathleen Norris makes the wry observation that Protestants have a limited attention span for Mary, the mother of Jesus. She writes: “We unpack her from the box at Christmas time and then pack her back up again, with our other decorations, after the holidays are over.” The fact is, Christians often say less about Mary than the New Testament does. She is seldom mentioned in our sermons or worship services, except for her honorary appearance in the annual Christmas pageant or nativity scene. But if we would only take the time to really look at the historical person of Mary with the same interest and consideration as we do with St. Paul or St. John, we would see in Mary a humble obedient servant that readily submits herself to God in order for His will to be done and not her own. We may in fact find a role model in her for our lives.
It begins with The Annunciation. We have heard the story so many times over the years, it sometimes fails to astonish us. An angel appearing to Mary to tell her that she will be the mother of the Messiah!
For centuries, artists have pictured this famous story of Mary at the moment she hears the words of Gabriel. This scene has been painted in a variety of ways. Some have her surrounded by angels, covered in red velvet or standing amid tapestries and silver candles. Others have Mary in more simple settings. These paintings can have a lot of power, and we can study the symbolism and love the artist who painted them, as we find ourselves drawn deeper into the mystery of The Annunciation. But the mystery is not just found in the fact of God breaking into history – but also in the way in which He did it.
God might have chosen many ways in which to take human form and become known to us. But by entering our world through the womb of Mary – God sent a very clear message and made known where his priorities truly lie! The Birth of Christ is God’s demonstrating that there is no bias towards respectability, wealth, prestige, race, pedigree or level of education—indeed all of things which man might value seem to have been deliberately avoided.
Imagine if you can an unmarried peasant girl from a no-nothing town praising God for honoring her with a child – and not just any child – but the long expected Savior of man, would any of us listen? But this is the song she sang. From the Gospel of Luke 1:46-55, the Magnificat of Mary:
46 And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
This Christmas season may we listen once more with fresh ears to the song of Mary.