Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Mary, How Did You Do It?

It's Christmas time - my very favorite time of the year. It's the time when my home is decorated to be festive and joyful, and Christmas cards from loved ones take over my fireplace mantel. It's the time when the white lights of my 12-foot tree sparkle every night as my husband and I snuggle under a blanket to keep warm. It's the time when hot cider waits on the stove and fills my home with a delicious aroma, and our guest room is filled with gifts and wrapping paper as we prepare to shower our loved ones with generous affection. It's the time of parties, family gatherings, and memory-making. And it's the time when both my home car stereo has nothing on except Christmas music!

I was driving in my car the other day listening to Christmas songs on the radio when I heard a cute little song they play all time called "Mary, Did You Know." It's a sweet song with thought-provoking lyrics that asks things like "Mary, did you know that your baby boy would someday walk on water? And did you know that when you kissed your little baby, you kissed the face of God? And did you know that the child you delivered would soon deliver you?" But I find myself getting slightly bothered every time I hear it. Mostly because I want to answer the question. I want to yell out into the radio speakers in hopes that the singer hears me say, "YES! Yes, of course she knew! She knew it ALL... and the fact that she had never had sex when she became pregnant probably gave her a really big clue! And the fact that an angel appeared and told her what the deal was, likely filled her in too. So YES, she knew!"

I'm sure I'm the only person on the planet who thinks those sarcastic things when I hear that sweet Christmas tune, but try not to judge me. I do understand the sentiment of the song. And I do appreciate the thought it provokes. But I can't help but think of a more realistic question when I think of Mary, the mother of Jesus. As a mother myself, my heart connects with Mary as I try to fathom what she went through being the mother of the Messiah. And as a woman, her situation resonates with me as I wonder how she did it. So the question I would have for Mary is not "did you know," but more importantly, "how did you do it?"

I can't imagine having a child who's under my authority, but has authority over the universe. I mean, what would it have been like to raise a child who could command the weather? How do you teach him to memorize the scriptures when he was the one who wrote them? How do you even relate to him as a mother knowing that he has the power to forgive your sin? And do you feel like you have special privilege in his life? For example, when you're facing an impossible situation, do you ask him to supernaturally change it for you, knowing that he could? We know Mary did this at least once because it's recorded for us in Matthew's gospel in the story of his first public miracle at the wedding feast. Mary was at the wedding and the hosts had run out of wine (which was an embarrassment to them), so she asks her son, Jesus, to do something supernatural and provide more wine. He of course does that time as he turned the water into wine, but wouldn't it have been easy for her to do that kind of thing all the time? Wouldn't you if Jesus was your son? I can see myself now: my car doesn't start - I go get Jesus; I have a migraine - I go get Jesus. I can't imagine what it would have been like for Mary to be the mother of a son who was supernaturally powerful. How did she do it? How did she act as an authority in his life while submitting to his ultimate authority over all life? Nobody else in history has ever had that unique role that Mary did.

I also can't imagine what it was like for her to watch him die. Putting the fact that he's Jesus aside, I can't imagine what it would be like for ANY mother to watch her son be brutally beaten and executed. Mary, however, had to watch her son be tortured and killed for a crime he did not commit, and knowing that he had the power to get down off the cross at any time he wanted to. Can you imagine? Having to listen to your boy - the one you gave birth to - crying out in pain as they whipped him with leather and metal, stripping his skin off his body like a torn rag? She looked on in what had to be absolute torture as her innocent son was mocked, ridiculed, and punished for something he didn't do. I just don't think I could have done it. And I think the worst part of it had to be that she was watching him die to atone for the sins of the world - including HER OWN. That's the part that I just cannot fathom as a mother. She knew he had to bear the weight of God's wrath and take the sins of the world upon himself as he paid the price for them. All sin - including hers. She had to realize the fact that she (in her humanity) was part of the reason he was up there on that cross. Her sin, along with the rest of the world's, was what put him there. He had to suffer so she could receive ultimate forgiveness and spend eternity with him.

I can't help but think it's a lot easier for us to accept that he died for us than it was for his own mother. For us, he's our Savior. We only know him as God. For Mary, he was her son. She knew him as God AND her little boy. I can't imagine how difficult it was for her to watch her boy die for her sins, knowing that she needed a Savior too. Put yourself in her shoes. If you're a mother, imagine that your child had to be tortured and executed in order for you to be forgiven and spend eternity in heaven. Crazy, isn't it? To me, it's unfathomable. But that's what Mary went through.

So when I see Mary in heaven, I think I will ask her how she did it. I can't wait to hear her recant the story in her own words, from one mother's heart to another. And then I will thank her for being willing and making herself available to God's unique plan so that we all can experience the forgiveness of a Savior. And in the meantime, I will allow Mary's experience to inspire me this Christmas to submit to and be available to God's unique plan for MY life - no matter how difficult the road seems or how little I understand. In the end, her experience ended with unmatchable glory, and she would say it was all very much worth the pain. When our difficult experiences bring glory to God, they are also worth the pain. Let's keep Mary's perspective all year long - not just when we celebrate the most wonderful time of the year. Merry Christmas!

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