I know most of the stories told in scripture and often find repeated tellings a bit tedious and flat. What I forget is that, while the chapters unfolded, the characters, the real people – disciples, citizens, mothers, soldiers, Romans, Jews – none of them knew what we do: how it all turned out.
We read that Mary, most likely a young woman in her early teens, was visited by an angel. And although we marvel at the mention of a celestial being and how truly and remarkably special Mary was, not to mention how young she was, we don’t always put ourselves in her place. And, although I’ve had “meet an angel” on my list of Things-I-Wish-Would-Happen-In-My-Lifetime, I’m not entirely sure I would be prepared for the shock or wonder.
Not that the angel would necessarily bring the entire first trumpet section and blinding heavenly lights – I’ll bet it was a bit more subdued when he visited Mary.
But good golly, Miss MOLLY!!! Gabriel himself came to her, and she knew he was who he was. She knew it wasn’t a prank devised by smarty-pants little sisters or the neighboring practical jokers. And, besides, who in the world could have cooked up such a preposterous scenario?!?
Yes, we tell the story of Mary, favored by God. We talk about how rough it must have been for her – unmarried, pregnant, a fantastical story about angels and the Holy Spirit. And, perhaps most difficult of all – what about Joseph?
What will I tell him?
How can I tell him? where do I start?
Why would he ever believe me?
We may have gotten a little better about putting ourselves in her shoes. We may have more of an appreciation for her as a real person, not the fair-skinned (?), half-smiling, haloed and peaceful young woman we see painted by the masters.
Yes, Mary’s introduction to the story of Jesus – the Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace – is indeed inspiring. Her unqualified response – I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled – a picture of pure humility.
What I’m determined to remember, however, during this Holy Holiday Season of Advent, is that Mary wasn’t the mother of Jesus just for those few verses in Luke, while she nursed and taught Him to walk.
I am determined to remind myself that she was also the one who nudged Him into His first recorded miracle: turning water into wine at the wedding at Cana. After the guests polished off the wine provided by the family, Jesus’ mother didn’t hesitate: My dear son, have you noticed that they have no more wine?
…to which he responded Mom! why are you getting me involved in this? I’m not ready for the whole miracle–part-of-the-Trinity–God’s-only-begotten-Son thing.
So she took the bull by the horns. OK, catering staff. Whatever you are working on, get over here and listen to my son.
(I may have taken some liberties with the dialogue.)
Mary, mother of Jesus, brought Him into this world as a baby and pushed Him into His place in this world as a man.
We see her again just a few short years later. And I write these words through tears.
I write these words unable to imagine what it would have been like to be present, to watch, to witness the crucifixion of a son or daughter, family member, friend.
For someone at my high level of wimpiness, it is simply unimaginable to have the required combination of love and strength to endure the pain and anguish experienced during the most heinous of executions.
But Mary was there.
Mary, mother of Jesus, brought Him into this world as a baby, pushed Him into His place in this world as a man, and watched as, for all she knew, He was leaving this world – alleged criminal, enemy of the state, blasphemer.
Scripture is vague and mysterious about what Mary knew and didn’t know. So, we can’t be sure. It may be that she had a hint of the miracle of resurrection, that she had been told or overheard Jesus’ words to the disciples. But even if she had, you could say nothing to convince me that single excruciating day didn’t mark the rest of her life. That kind of wound is never completely healed. The memories may mellow with time and the joy of his resurrection could well have diminished the horror of her experience.
But she was there. She willingly attended the worst of nightmares.
And that, my lovelies, reveals to us why Mary was the chosen one. Not simply because she was a young woman devoted to God, who found His favor, and served Him in her youth.
But because God knew that Mary had what it would take to be Mary, Mother of Jesus – from birth to Ascension. Mary, mother of Jesus who sang:
May you be blessed and encouraged, this first Monday of Advent, by the love, strength, and devotion of Mary.
The story of the Wedding at Cana is told in John 2: 1-11
Mary’s Song – the Magnificat – is found in Luke 1: 46-55