Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Driving in to work this morning, my wife and I heard the Christmas song "Mary Did You Know?" playing on the radio. In the version that we heard, Kenny Rogers is asking if she knew that the child she was carrying would do many wondrous things. He asks if she knows that he will 'one day walk on water', 'save our sons and daughters', 'give sight to a blind man', 'calm a storm with his hand', and 'one day rule the nations' among other miraculous actions. It is a legitimate question to consider: what did Mary know about her child, and when did she know it? We know from Matthew's Gospel that Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel and given certain information. First, she was told that her child would be a boy, and that she should name him 'Jesus'. She is told by Gabriel that the child will be 'great' and will be 'called Son of the most High'. But then Gabriel goes further, saying 'the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of David his father; and he shall reign in the house of Jacob forever. And of his kingdom there shall be no end.' What Gabriel is telling Mary is that her child shall be the long awaited Messiah. Mary doesn't understand how this can happen, since she is engaged to Joseph but not yet married, and she has never been with, nor does she intend to be with, a man in any physical way that would result in the birth of a child. In other words, Mary is a virgin, and she is staying that way until marriage. Gabriel then drops the final bomb on her: 'The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the most High shall overshadow thee...the Holy which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.' Mary is told that God Himself shall be the father of her child through supernatural means. Now you try to tell me that this wouldn't be a little overwhelming for your basic average teenage girl. But Mary was not average, she had been chosen by God in his plan for this purpose long before her own Immaculate Conception. So she knew before she had even conceived Jesus that she would be the mother of the Son of God, the Redeemer, the Messiah promised for ages. Later her fiancee, Joseph, was also visited, told of the supernatural conception, that the child would be a boy, and that they should name him Jesus. Joseph was told that this name would be given because the child would go on to 'save his people from their sins.' So both Joseph and Mary had this information during the pregnancy. While newly pregnant, Mary finds out that her cousin Elizabeth is also pregnant, now six months along. What Mary apparently does not know is that Elizabeth's child will grow to be 'John the Baptist', who will begin to lay the groundwork for her own child's ministry. When they visit, Elizabeth tells Mary that she, Mary, is 'blessed among women' and is 'the mother of my Lord.' Finally, just after Jesus' birth, Mary's family is visited by shepherds who related their experiences of being told by angels that 'this day, is born to you a Saviour, who is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you. You shall find the infant wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger.' These were the exact circumstances that Mary, Joseph, and Jesus were in, and the shepherds were thus driven to their location. So Mary gets even more confirmation to her earlier messages, as if she needed it by this point. So we find that Mary knew before she was even pregnant that her child would be the Christ, the Saviour, the Son of God, and she received a number of confirmations to these facts during and after her pregnancy. As a Jewish woman whose father was a priest, Mary knew well the prophecies involving the Messiah, so she had to know that ultimately her child would die so that his people could live. In the end we are left with no other way to see things than that Mary knew pretty much everything that was going to happen right from that first visit from Gabriel. We are man, and Mary was blessed, but she was also mortal. In other words, she could have seen and been overwhelmed by all of this and simply said "No." Instead, because Mary saw, knew, and accepted, and said "Yes", our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ was born, lived, taught, and died for our sins. Mary quite obviously, along with the help of her husband Joseph, raised Jesus to be a loving, strong, wise, good man. Of course, as God among us, this was inevitable, but the love that Jesus had for his mother showed that she quite obviously did a good job raising and loving him. In these last couple of days before Christmas it is nice to know that 2,000 years ago, Mary knew exactly what she was getting into with the child to whom she was about to give birth. And it is nice to know that she said that "Yes" to the pregnancy, to His birth.