|Photo by By Robert Whitehead (Danielle & Lilliyan Flickr) |
[CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
One of the unfortunate aspects of living in the Protestant tradition is the unhealthy avoidance of Mary.
Although your church, like mine, might read Mary's Song as part of the Advent service, or might mention her role as mother of Christ during the reading of the Christmas Story, the sermons and applications drawn from Mary's life alone have been few and far between.
Part of this may be seen as an attempt at over-correction from the Catholic tradition of idolizing Mary (literally). I can understand that concern, but like all strong women included in the Biblical record, Mary's life holds distinct lessons for us.
Her spiritual path may have been unique, but that doesn't mean that she shares no areas of commonality with people like you and me.
What We Have in Common with Mary:
God took notice of us.
Almost the first words out of Mary's mouth during her hymn of worship highlight her awareness that God took notice of her lowly estate and would transform her into something that she never could have become on her own.
My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;for he who is mighty has done great things for me,and holy is his name.
Really, who would any of us be if not for the grace of God reaching down to our lowly estate and lifting us to the saving knowledge of the Godhead?
Our significance is not in a spouse.
The only time that Joseph is mentioned in Scripture is in relation to his role as Mary's husband and Jesus' earthly father (primarily Luke 2). Likewise, the only times that Mary is mentioned is in relation to the life of her son, Jesus. Therefore, apart from their roles as the earthly parents of Jesus, Joseph's and Mary's stories don't figure into the biblical narrative -- and really, why should they? What makes Joseph relevant is not that he's Mary husband, and what makes Mary noteworthy is not that's married to Joseph.
What made each of their lives significant is the same aspect that gives significance to each of us: our relationship to Jesus.
We know the what but not the how.
When God's angel appeared to Mary, he told her a few things: that she would give birth to a son and name him Jesus, that he would reign on David's throne, and that his kingdom would never end. There's a lot of powerful theology packed into those few tight phrases, and it's doubtful that Mary understood it all going forward in the same way that we now understand it in retrospect.
Do you think that when Mary heard the angel's words she pictured herself at the foot of a cross, witnessing her child ravaged by wrath?
As believers in the Word, we have a similar experience every time we claim the promises of God. He's revealed enough for us to know what he plans to accomplish in the long-term, but we're rarely able to guess the how.
May God give us grace and a fresh moving of the Spirit this Advent season to open our eyes to these timeless truths in a very real way.