Tag Archives: Mary

10 Days of Christmas: Mary Ponders

Posts in the 10 Days of Christmas series

  1. 10 Days of Christmas: Rulers from their Thrones
  2. 10 Days of Christmas: Matthew 1
  3. 10 Days of Christmas: Mary and her Donkey
  4. 10 Days of Christmas: Of The Father’s Love Begotten
  5. 10 Days of Christmas: The Kenosis
  6. 10 Days of Christmas: Mary Ponders
  7. 10 Days of Christmas: The Meaning of It All

How much did Mary know about the things that were happening in her, and through her? How much of Isaiah and Micah had percolated into her understanding from brother or father, some man who had received some formal training, who had been taught to read the texts? When she breathed the word “Messiah”, what collection of ideas did that word stand in for?

Mary treasured up these things, and pondered them.

I would love to know the pathways that her mind ran down as she marveled. The months between the angel and the birth must have seemed an eternity – certainly long enough for doubt to creep in. Did he really say … does this really mean … will he really be …

When the shepherds arrived, with stories and songs, it must have been a flood of emotions, confirming everything that Mary had been told.

Unto you is born this day a child, and He is Christ the Lord.

Previous in series: 10 Days of Christmas: The Kenosis

Next in series: 10 Days of Christmas: The Meaning of It All

10 Days of Christmas: Mary and her Donkey

Posts in the 10 Days of Christmas series

  1. 10 Days of Christmas: Rulers from their Thrones
  2. 10 Days of Christmas: Matthew 1
  3. 10 Days of Christmas: Mary and her Donkey
  4. 10 Days of Christmas: Of The Father’s Love Begotten
  5. 10 Days of Christmas: The Kenosis
  6. 10 Days of Christmas: Mary Ponders
  7. 10 Days of Christmas: The Meaning of It All

We don’t know if Mary rode a donkey to Bethlehem. We like to think she did, because what kind of a jerk would make his pregnant wife walk from Nazareth to Bethlehem?

But that raises a different question, one I haven’t heard much about. Why did Mary make the trip at all? The census (maybe, probably) required only the male head of household to register, so Joseph could have legally made the trip alone.

I don’t know much about 1st Century Judean birthing practices, but somehow I don’t picture the husband hunched over the birthing bed, coaching his wife through her Lamaze breathing. I’m going to rely on the evidence of pre-1980′s world-wide cultural norms here, and say that most of the time the husband waited in the front room smoking the hookah with the fellas while the women of the family (and maybe a trained midwife) coached the mother through her labor. The husbandly role, throughout history, has been to fret nervously in a different room, then boisterously take credit once the child is born. Mary didn’t need Joseph around during the delivery, she needed her family, her female relatives, the local support network. Why go to Bethlehem?

The trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem is about 100 miles, through some rough terrain, and the hill country along the way was constantly populated with bandits (the parable of the Good Samaritan starts with a man being mugged along some of these same roads).  I got nervous when my wife walked a few miles through Rome on a hot summer day while pregnant. I can’t imagine Joseph’s stress over Mary making the trip with him through that rough country. Again, why make the trip? Why not leave Mary in the care of her family while Joseph went to fulfill his legal obligation.

Luke tells us why Joseph went to Bethlehem. Why did Mary go?

There are a few possibilities, I guess. Maybe Joseph was a thoroughly modern and sensitive husband, and just couldn’t stand the thought of his wife giving birth without his support. Maybe Mary was a rock-hard badass, and the thought of grunting out our Lord and Savior un-aided in the barren rocks above Jericho just made her shout, “Bring it on!” Maybe Luke invented the census and the trip to Bethlehem in order to make the birth narrative fit Micah’s prophesy, in which case of course Mary had to go along.

There is another possibility. Maybe Mary had no reason to stay. Maybe the embarrassment of the pregnancy left her estranged from her friends and relatives, with no support and no family. Maybe nobody had added up the dates yet, and everyone was assuming it was Joseph’s child. Perhaps Mary was eager for a chance to get out of town, and give birth away from the chattering gossips and back-biting spinsters, away from the prying questions that an actual birth date would inevitably give rise to.

I don’t know. Maybe you have some better ideas.

labor of love
photo by introspectre

Previous in series: 10 Days of Christmas: Matthew 1

Next in series: 10 Days of Christmas: Of The Father’s Love Begotten

Advent Reminder

Every year, I have to ask Doug to remind me what the weeks in advent stand for. Since I don’t have a handy notebook near, I’m posting this here to remind me throughout the season, and so that I can find it with a snappy little blog search next year.

Advent is four weeks long. The four weeks are:

  1. Hope – the Prophet
  2. Love – the Holy Family
  3. Joy – the Shepherds
  4. Peace – the Magi

On week 5, we celebrate the traditional “80-Proof Christmas” candle, wherein all music pastors pass out from exhaustion and slip into the numb embrace of Bookers.

Protest Songs: Advent Edition

Not long ago I started a series (which quickly fizzled out due to my burgeoning ADD) about protest songs. I may or may not get back to writing it regularly (Look! A bird…), but I thought it might be cool to highlight one very special song during this season of Advent. You can read the lyrics from the NIV here, as I have opted for the KJV (used in the Book of Common Prayer) for poetic reasons.

My soul doth magnify the Lord,
And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.
For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden:
for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.
For he that is mighty hath done to me great things;
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is on them that fear him
from generation to generation.
He hath shewed strength with his arm;
he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.
He hath put down the mighty from their seats,
and exalted them of low degree.
He hath filled the hungry with good things;
and the rich he hath sent empty away.
He hath helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy;
As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed forever.

This song is, of course, the Magnificat of Mary the Mother of Jesus. During her pregnancy, Mary left her hometown of Nazareth to visit her cousin Elizabeth (herself pregnant with the baby who would become John the Baptist). When Mary arrived, John started turning somersaults in Betsy’s womb, and Mary burst into song. It was quite a scene!

The political climate in first century Judea was pretty messy: Herod “the Great” was king, but instead of being an advocate for his people, he collaborated with the Roman Empire to subjugate them. There was incredible discontent on the part of the people, both politically and spiritually — these being quite wrapped up in one another in the ancient understanding of “life.” What had happened to God’s promises to make Israel a great nation? Nothing but foreign rule for hundreds of years…what the heck? The prophecies about a coming Messiah had become the one glimmer of hope for many oppressed and downtrodden people.

Then along came this little girl from a no-name hick town, leagues away from the action and expectation. She received a startling message: she had been chosen by God to bear and raise His very own Son, who would be the long-awaited Savior. She wasn’t clear on the details, but she didn’t blink or stutter or equivocate when it was time to accept or reject the mission. “I’m the Lord’s maid, ready to serve. Let it be with me just as you say” (The Message).

Fully cognizant of the political and spiritual reality of the times, Mary sang a song of protest, a song of joy.

“The disestablishment of unjust powers and the establishment of just powers is how God is being faithful to the Abrahamic promises…Mary’s friends undoubtedly lifted a toast when Mary sang this song. ‘It’s about time!’ they all said when their jugs hit the table” (Scot McKnight, “Christmas is About the Poor”, Dec. 10, 2006).

A Savior was about to be born — He who would establish true justice, scatter the proud, bring down rulers, send the rich away empty, lift the humble and fill the hungry with good things.