Roman Catholics recently (Dec.
5 8) celebrated or observed (or marked) The Feast of the Immaculate Conception, which as this article explains is about the conception not of Jesus but of Mary.
Protestants, at least in this part of the world, recently had a fellowship meal after which they sang lots of Advent and Christmas carols. High church folks, don’t get upset. Be happy Reformed Protestants are even acknowledging Christmas because they didn’t used to until retailers made it “the most wonderful time of the year.”
With those songs and accompanying texts from the gospels in mind, I have a hard time seeing the import of Mary in most observances of Jesus’ birth. Consider, for instance, the narrative in Matthew’s gospel:
Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” 9After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12And being warned win a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.
The wise men did not worship Mary but Jesus instead. They gave their gifts to him. I understand Roman Catholics believe they do not worship Mary. They say they venerate her. Even if you accept that distinction, the text is odd in mentioning that honor went from the wise men only to the baby, even though his mother was right there. Mary was full of grace, but Jesus was and still is God.
Then you have reinforcement for veneration-of-Mary skeptics from notable hymns. Here is part of the text from “We Three Kings of Orient Are”:
Born a babe on Bethlehem’s plain
Gold we bring to crown him again
King forever, ceasing never
Over us all to reign
Oh, star of wonder, star of mightFrankincense to offer have I
Star with royal beauty bright
Guide us to the perfect light
Incense owns a deity nigh
Prayer and praising, all men raising
Worship God on high
Again, no intended disrespect to Mary, but that carol does not even mention her and the reason has to be that she pales in insignificance compared to her son.
And how about “Hark, The Herald Angels Sing”:
Christ, by highest heaven adored,
Christ, the everlasting Lord,
late in time behold him come,
offspring of the Virgin’s womb:
veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
hail th’incarnate Deity,
pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus, our Immanuel.
Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all he brings,
risen with healing in his wings.
Mild he lays his glory by,
born that we no more may die,
born to raise us from the earth,
born to give us second birth.
There, Charles Wesley does not fail to mention Mary. But again, her presence is insubstantial compared to “Christ, the everlasting Lord.”
None of this disproves the Immaculate Conception. It does suggest Roman Catholic apologists for Mary’s uniqueness still have some ‘splainin’ to do.
Postscript: the idea that Mary was conceived and born without sin but still needs a savior is a bit of a head scratcher:
she is “redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son”. The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person “in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” and chose her “in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love”.
In which case, if someone as perfect as Mary needed a redeemer, why doesn’t Jesus?