I Wanna Be Like Mary: The First Song of Christmas
Before the famous story of the first Christmas as recorded in Luke 2, Mary of Nazareth met the angel Gabriel, received some outrageous tidings, and responded by singing the first ever Christmas song.
In our modern world, we often counsel our young people (and ourselves!) to just “follow your heart.” More than a few Disney films have been entertainingly built on this foundation. The notion that a person can be trusted to find a guiding light within themselves, however, is not a Christian one. The biblical counterpoint to the Disneyverse is offered by prophet Jeremiah: “The human heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9).
Of course, a robust Christian faith recommends mature self-knowledge as a significant part of the virtue of honesty. We owe it to God, our neighbors, and ourselves to be keenly aware of our own preferences, wants, and desires. However, the Bible points out that we are fools to believe that we will be happy and satisfied with life when all our plans are outlined, our hopes fulfilled, and our preferences met.
I’m sure that Mary of Nazareth had a long list of hopes and dreams for her own life. She was likely looking forward to marrying Joseph and settling down near their parents. Mary probably dreamt of a cozy home and raising a lively batch of kids. No doubt Mary hoped for the decline of Rome’s imperial power and a return of glory to Israel.
But Mary’s vision of the future was interrupted by an actual angel sharing “glad tidings” that she would become pregnant and give birth to the Son of God. Mary was clear-headed and forthright to ask questions about this. And she was also receptive enough to take comfort in the angel’s explanation and assurance.
Mary is so much more than a willing womb. It turns out that she is just the kind of person that God is looking for, a real disciple. The type of person who is able to hear the Word of the Lord as it is spoken, who is able to receive that same Word, who is willing to let that Word be planted as a seed, and to ponder it in the deep places of the heart. It is from that deep place that Mary sings the first song of Christmas, “My soul magnifies the Lord” despite the trouble and hardship that was inevitably in store for her. Mary didn’t even know if Joseph would stand by her when she started singing. She was the kind of person whose response to God’s plan was, “Yes. Yes!”
Jesus is still looking for the same kind of people to follow him. People who listen for him. People who will receive the Word. People who will ponder and allow the seeds to be deeply planted. People who are willing to sing and tell God, “Yes. Yes!” We all have the opportunity to walk in the noble footsteps of Mary of Nazareth by hearing and acting on the personal, intimate, tender words that God speaks to us.
Jesus, in the Gospel of Mark 3:33-35, says as much:
“Who are my mother and my brothers?” Jesus asked. Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
May we be counted among that blessed company. Nothing would bring Jesus more joy as we remember his coming into the world this Christmas season.
~ Pastor Gregg