As Christmas quickly approaches and I’m over the halfway mark with my first pregnancy, I can’t help but feel more amazed than ever before at what Mary must have been feeling when she was carrying the Son of God. Me, I’m carrying a son who belongs to God the Father, but he is only a human. Mary, on the other hand, was carrying deity! I can’t even fathom.
Now, I grew up Catholic, and I have a few pet peeves when listening to many Protestants who have never actually been Catholic but are set on bashing them any chance they get. For example, some in the Protestant circle like to spread the notion that all Catholics worship Mary. This was never something I was taught to do, or did–and I even went to Catholic school! Whether or not other people do, I can’t say, but none of my Catholic friends (and I have many), place her at the level of Christ. I did, however, esteem Mary in my heart and recognized her as a vital person God chose to use. I’m thankful I grew up understanding and acknowledging the invaluable role she played in bringing the Savior into the world rather than going out of my way to reduce her to merely another woman.
I was baptized, confirmed and raised Catholic, only to be re-baptized at 18 in a Bible church because they believed solely in baptism by immersion. My second baptism was not, however, because I had recently come to faith in Christ–I had long believed in Him. But, it was the only way I could become a member at that church and use my gifts. I won’t sit on the subject of baptism, but I’ve spent the past 11-years in conservative Bible churches and even graduated with my M.A. from a conservative evangelical seminary–something I’m very grateful for and would not change. I’ve had much time to ponder different dogmas and doctrines associated with various Christian denominations and have a wide array of thoughts I could amuse you with but I’m not here to argue or debate, I’m here simply to share what God places on my heart. And today, that happens to be the role of Mary in the Christmas story.
While most conservative churches are very vocal on why they differ in many areas (as they should be), it’s obvious many are separating themselves from very important parts of church history in an effort to remain as removed as possible from all things Catholic. They literally have chosen to throw the baby out with the bathtub more often than not. I could go on right now, but let me just give this word to all of my fellow Protestant friends: Believe it or not, Martin Luther was not the first believer, though by the way the Reformation is elevated in many circles, it seems people must think this. It wasn’t true then and isn’t true now. God has shown people the Truth throughout history and not merely as a result of the Reformation.
Now, when it comes to Mary I want to state very clearly: Mary is not deity and not worthy of our worship. But, my friends, neither is Paul! That’s right…I said it. In Protestant camps we often speak of Paul and his writings as though he were the most important and central man God used–we gush over him as though he were as important as Christ. I say, what’s the difference in what Catholics do with Mary vs. what Protestants do with Paul? Yep. Ultimately, it’s up to us as individuals to correctly understand The Word. Mary, regardless of your thoughts, was the one young woman the One and only Almighty God predetermined to use to bear the Savior of the world! Hello. I think that’s pretty astonishing when you stop and think of all the other ways and people He could have used to become God in the flesh. Don’t you? If we keep reducing her to the point of nothing special it won’t be long until she’s not in the nativity scenes.
The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end” (Luke 1:31-33). And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).
Mary, a teenager, had enough faith and trust in God to respond in a more mature manner than many adults. She was completely obedient to the call on her life, and instead of running away in fear she said “may it be done to me according to your word”. That is a powerful lesson for all of us. We need to quit acting as though Mary was nothing more than another woman and Paul was more important than everyone else. Mary, just like every other figure in the Bible, was someone of great importance–crucial, actually. While God could have used and would have used another means of entering the world in the flesh, He didn’t. The truth is, that He chose and used this woman. And because we worship Him, we should stand amazed at the role she played in the greatest story of all time because it is revering Him for what He did.
These are my thoughts this Advent season as we approach Christmas. Thank God He chose a woman who would show us what obedience looks like and that she cared more about God than herself when many others would have simply said “no”. She gave birth to God incarnate, raised Him, loved Him as only a mother can and then watched as He died for sins that were not His. I’m so grateful for the gift of Christ and I’m grateful I’m not the woman who had to experience watching my child cling to a cross.