What Mary Knew

What Mary Knew December 11, 2017

Allow me a Grinch-y moment folks… I love Christmas, but some of the secular trappings of the season are just too dang precious for me. I have a long list of what those precious things are. I’ll not launch into it because some of those things are deeply meaningful to some, and I’ll not disparage what others hold as family tradition. And also, ’tis the season to not be bitchy. But let’s just say, if I avoid the mall and the long lines for Santa, it is not just because of my crowd anxiety; it’s because I’d rather get my sugar from a good bourbon ball, and not the cloying sweetness of things geared toward “making holiday memories.” I skip the Hallmark channel and most commercial Christmas music for the same reason.

Like I said, I can mostly rein in the eye rolls, because it is not socially acceptable to hate on these things. But there is as meme going around that speaks to my barely-suppressed snark. It features a picture of a beautiful stained glass window, and it says “Mary, did you know?” And down in the corner, there’s a picture of Grumpy Cat, and he says “Yes, she knew, now stop asking.”

Ok, so it might not be laugh-out-loud funny. But come on. It’s chuckle-worthy, at least. It also appeals to the Grinchy-ness I work so hard to contain (YOU’RE WELCOME). And, more than that–it is a bit of a sermon.

Because Mary did know. Of course she knew. There’s this whole song about what she knew, if we bother to read past the angel bit. When Gabriel asked if she would do this thing–this amazing, impossible, earth-shaking thing–she only hesitated for the briefest of moments to question her own worthiness.

And then she said yes. And she rejoiced. And she sang this thing we call Magnificat. It goes like this:

He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts.
 He has brought down the powerful from their thrones,
    and lifted up the lowly;
 he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and sent the rich away empty.
 He has helped his servant Israel,
    in remembrance of his mercy,
 according to the promise he made to our ancestors,
    to Abraham and to his descendants forever.

“Mary, Did You Know?” is the seasonal standard, piped through the radio in all those places I try not to go. It implies a young girl who was sweet and faithful but could not possibly have known what was coming; could not possibly have understood this thing God was going to do in her life, in the world. But listen to her own song. Does this sound like a naive young girl? No. Mary was not a waif. She was not a supporting actress in this, but a willing participant in God’s dramatic re-ordering of human power structures. She knew what she was about, and she was here for it.



So yes, Grumpy Cat, you tell it. Mary knew. She knew something holy and mysterious and powerful was coming, and that she would be front and center for its unfolding. She also knew, surely, that there would be darkness. Days of doubt and worry, suffering and heartbreak. And she sang on.

We need to remember this part of the story. This year, especially, we need for Mary to be fierce. In the year of #MeToo, and the Silence Breakers, and powerful men unseated as women break their silence, we need Mary to keep singing. She sings, and she tells us that God is not having it. She sings that the sacred order of creation does not subject women to abusive powers; that the abundance of God’s mercy does not allow a majority of the world’s population to suffer in poverty while a select few enjoy boundless wealth; that the earth is not ours to consume and destroy with no thought for future generations.

Mary knew all of this. Do we?

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