Mary Did You Know

Mary did you Know?

Let’s talk about love. It comes in all forms – romantic love, parental love, sibling love, neighbor love….they are not all the same. Having fallen madly in love in college with an amazing lady, I thought I was educated on the subject. Then I had children, and I took a quantum leap into a world I never even sensed before. I love my kids today as much as I ever have, more perhaps, and with every year that goes by I get a deeper sense of the love that Mary had for Jesus. Love is about willingness to sacrifice my perceived needs for the one I love. Mary knew about sacrifice.

My favorite Christmas tune is “Mary did you Know.” Lyrics written by Mark Lowry, and his singing of it with the acapella group Voctave still moves me to tears – and I have listened to that version more than a hundred times. The lyrics capture the love of Mary for the child Jesus, and the rendering of it musically is beyond magical. Mary. Loved. Jesus.

Their love is something we only get glimpses of in scripture, but my favorite is the wedding at Cana in John 2. You may not consider this a love story. You know the sequence, they have run out of wine and Mary asks Jesus to intervene. His response is “Woman, why do you involve me, my hour has not yet come.”  Her response suggest that she knew differently. She does not say anything to Jesus, but rather addresses the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” In all of John’s Gospel, those are the last words you hear from Mary.

And they are words of love and release. Jesus was about 30 years old, her son by incredible circumstances, but flesh of her flesh. She had him for 30 years, and based on her response here, she knew it was his time. It was indeed his time. In John’s Gospel, from this moment on, Jesus is engaged in ministry. It was time. He may not have heard from God, but it is clear that she had.

Consider for a moment the proper sequence. God had intervened in history and Jesus had come along, supernaturally to be sure, but still with all of Mary’s DNA. Mary carried him, she birthed him, raised him to adulthood. She loved him. When it was time to release him, God again clearly communicated to Mary that it was time.

It is all about agency. That is a technical term. Agency is the capacity of an actor to act in a given environment. God did not violate Mary’s agency. Somehow, in some way, He had communicated to her that it was now time for Jesus to move out into ministry. In whatever way that communication came, she acted upon it. She ignored Jesus’ comment and she instructed the servants to do what he said to do.

They had not rehearsed this. This was live. Jesus, on the spot, tells the servants what to do. The result is amazing wine that impresses even the wedding banquet master. Few knew what it meant. But Mary knew. My, my…Mary knew.

She knew, in this act of sacrifice and love, that Jesus was going away, never to return. She knew what lay ahead of him, she knew how hard it would be to convince the local population that he was the single person, the Messiah, that their culture, nay, the world, had been awaiting for many, many generations. She knew; she knew that her release, her simple instructions to the servants, would result in her absorbing three years of pain and cultural ostracism (“That’s your son??”) as she awaited the culmination of his ministry.

And finally, the pain! She absorbed the pain of his itinerant ministry that never included her, of his arrest, his abuse at the hands of the Romans, the betrayal among the crowds…she was there, anguished, yet her love undiminished. I was in Rome 2 years ago and was able to stand in front of Michelangelo’s  Pieta, and I wept uncontrollably. He saw the love as he carved the marble – this was the love of a parent  combined with the love of a future yet unrealized. Can you imagine this –  the depth of her love, the volume of her sorrow, and yet the capacity of her hope? Amazing moment!

Jesus calls us to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves. Easy in concept, but so hard in execution. May love fill your every moment in this Advent season!

-Tom Boyle 

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