“I’ve Been Thinking A Lot About Mary Lately”

A number of years ago, I ran across a little article in the Des Moines Register by a woman named Cynthia Mercati with which I was quite taken. I put it in a computer file and often open it up around this time in the year and take another look. Let me share it with you:

“I’ve been thinking a lot about Mary lately.  I don’t mean the manger/angels sweetly singing on high/Mary.  I don’t mean the blond, blue-eyed Mary I was taught about in Catholic schools…the only woman ever to give birth without mussing her hair!  No, the Mary I’ve been thinking about is the one we know only fragments about – but what fragments they are.  When she is told she will be the mother of God, this gutsy Jewish teen-ager declares that God “has put down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of low degree; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away.”

“If anybody was listening, they might think this girl was a social activist!  After her baby’s birth, Luke tells us that Mary ‘kept all these things, pondering them in her heart.’ Some folks think it was the shepherds and the sweet smell of the stable Mary was thinking about…but most mothers know what she was thinking: Why him? Why my son? Why couldn’t this great honor have been bestowed on the kid down the block? Why can’t my child just live a peaceful, uneventful life?  Yet by the time we see Mary at the wedding in Cana of Galilee, she is urging – some would even say nagging – her son to get on with his life’s work…”

“The Mary I have been thinking about was a single mother.  Somewhere along the way from Bethlehem to Golgotha, Joseph drops out of sight…Whatever happened, Mary ended up a woman alone.  No health benefits, no old age pension.  The Mary I’ve been thinking about lately would not fit well or easily into today’s celebrations of her son’s birth…Most likely Mary would put a crimp in all our modern festivities with our relentlessly grim determination to be cheery.”

“How, she might ask, can you possibly ‘keep’ this thing you call Christmas without thinking first and foremost of all the people who will spend this day, and all their others, with holes in their hearts?  The newly bereaved, the newly single, the jobless, the depressed, those the world deems misfits, and those the world views as ‘having it all” and who still can find no peace?  These are the people my son spent his time with, and gave his life for!  Any anniversary of this birth can have no meaning apart from pain – theirs…his…ours.”

Well, as I say, I thought it was a good piece and perhaps sums up for many of us why we find Mary such an attractive figure.  One who, from the brief accounts we have of her in the New Testament, would probably have been considered a saint no matter whose mother she was!  But, of course, as Christians we do know whose mother she was, and so she becomes an example for us in still another way.  Not only was she a strong woman who models for us what sensitivity to the poor and the marginalized looks like, but she also had a unique role in receiving…carrying…birthing…and nurturing…Jesus of Nazareth in this world.

And so do we! Because sadly, in many ways, Jesus Christ is as little known – or at least as little heeded – by people in the world today as he was in Mary’s time.  Our task, as Christian people, is to introduce the person of Jesus to those who know him not.  And the way you do that effectively is the same way Mary did – by receiving him, carrying him, birthing him, and nurturing him in the world today!

First of all, you need to “receive” Jesus yourself!  You can’t give away something you don’t have.  So you need – as our evangelical sisters and brothers are wont to say — to accept Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord. Our Confirmation service asks us to do the same thing.  And you need to continue to “receive” him every Sunday in word and prayer and sacrament as part of a Christian community.

Secondly, you need to “carry” Jesus…with you… outside the doors of your church and into your daily life letting every decision you make be impacted and influenced by him. By asking, in every situation with which you are confronted, “What would Jesus do?” Yep, WWJD –what would Jesus do? That may sound a little simplistic, but it’s actually at the core of Christian ethics and moral theology — the imitation of Christ. To ask ourselves, in every situation, what would Jesus do?

Third, you and I need to “give birth” to Jesus in the lives of others by being willing to talk about him openly and without embarrassment.  In other words, to talk to your friends and loved ones, not only about your local church or your denomination or even about “God”, but about the personality and ministry of Jesus. That’s what our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, means by “the Jesus Movement.” To talk about Jesus, rather than only the church.

And finally, we need to “nurture” Christ in this world just as surely as Mary did. How? By taking care of his Body!  In the tradition, Mary cared for the body of Christ from infancy until she cradled that body when it was taken down from the Cross.  We need to take care of his Body today. The Body of Christ – the church!

Jesus needed to be fed and clothed, strengthened and encouraged, in his earthly life. And the church of Jesus Christ in the world today has precisely those same needs!  By your active participation in and support of your congregation and its outreach, you are exercising just such a “nurturing” ministry. Because the church is the Body of Christ just as surely as Jesus was!

So, like our friend, the columnist Cynthia Mercati, let’s all take Mary as our “companion” this Christmas.  Not only as an example of compassion and concern for the poor and marginalized, but as an example of just how it is that we can receive…carry…give birth to…and nurture Christ Jesus in the world today.  For, in the words of Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth:

“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb…and …blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

2 Responses to ““I’ve Been Thinking A Lot About Mary Lately””

  1. Wayne Kamm Says:

    Amen, +Christopher! You continue to be the master of “putting the message in a nutshell.” Thank you for this meditation.

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