What Did Mary Know?

Luke 1:26-38

Here's something we don't like to admit, but let's get it out there: there are Christmas songs engineered to be church service showstoppers. These are the songs full of drama and are reserved for only the best soloists or the girl in your youth group who really thinks she's going to be the next Adele. "O Holy Night" was, still is, and likely always will be the reigning champion of this category. If you have someone who can hit that final "Fall on your knees" without taking it into diva territory, then you can have your benediction right there and everyone will go home happy.

In the churches in which I grew up, "Mary, Did You Know?" is one of those songs. It was written in 1991, so it's like "O Holy Night"'s little cousin who just got out of college. The song addresses the mother of Jesus and asks whether she knew that her baby would walk on water, heal the blind, and whether Mary generally had an understanding of her child's divinity that the church didn't completely nail down for several centuries.

The answer to these questions is, of course, "No." Gabriel told her that she would give birth to a child who would be called Son of God (which did not necessarily mean to her what it means to us) and that he would become a king in the line of David. So her mind would not have necessarily gone straight to this child performing miracles and being "the Great I Am."

That lack of certainty is what is amazing about Mary's story. Most of us want a guarantee, a sure thing. I guess you could argue that an angel might represent such a scenario. But what Gabriel said seemed incredibly far-fetched and it all flew in the face of the things that Mary did know.

Mary knew this pregnancy out of the blue was going to severely complicate her engagement to Joseph. She knew that people weren't going to buy the story that the Holy Spirit impregnated her. She knew she might become a social pariah and possibly even be executed for carrying a baby. And concerning the baby becoming king, she knew her land was occupied by the most powerful empire the world had ever seen.

And yet she trusted God and said, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word." She didn't know. She didn't know it was all going to work out. In fact, I suspect there were many times in her life when she wondered if it was all going to fall apart. Yet she said, "Yes." That kind of faith is staggering.

Faith is what carries those who follow Jesus. There are many times in which what he asks us to do flies in the face of how we know the world works. There are times in which we might ask ourselves, "Is this all going to fall apart?"

I know this year during Advent—this season when we look forward to the day when God makes all things right—it seems like all the poop is hitting all the fans. The world that we know is a broken, violent, hateful place. Loving and loving sacrificially can seem dangerous in that world. Trusting a good God might seem foolish in that world. But part of the beauty of Advent and Christmas is that God was made known to us through Jesus. And so we may trust God in spite of this world that we know.

Island of Misfit Toys

Light the lamp!