Maybe it was my middle school crush on Clay Aiken, or maybe it was a bent toward feminist theology at a tender age, but “Mary Did You Know?” always makes my top 5 for Christmas songs.
(And, yes, i know it’s barely day two of Advent, you snooty Christians. I need a little Christmas, right this very minute, okay?)
A couple of weeks ago i was leading a Bible study on the Magnificat and the encounter in Luke 1 between Mary and Elizabeth. Our deacon then commented that if you were only to have the first chapter of Luke, one might presume that this promised Messiah would go on to be a great king, an uprooter of worldly power through his own majesty. Mary’s song, after all, falls in a great line of Biblical womyn singing praises to God for giving them sons, sons who would go on to do stuff quite like that.
We wondered then about what, exactly, Mary knew.
And, worryingly, what she consented to.
Gabriel doesn’t say precisely what “overshadow” means, nor does he detail how God will protect Mary from being, say, dying in childbirth or being abandoned for her indiscretion. We know she will give birth to one who will be called God’s Son. But God doesn’t detail that Jesus will die, gruesomely, as a criminal. Before her very eyes.
Maybe that’s because God didn’t know; maybe this is evidence for free will, that it was not some magnanimous gesture of wrath on God’s part that killed his kid, but humanity’s fear of what God on earth looks like, acts like.
I really like to think God asked Mary. That consent was required for the conceiving of such a gift, and such a curse.
But what becomes clearer and clearer to me is how much Mary knew. No, she probably didn’t know Jesus would “calm the storm with his hand” and give sight to that particular blind man, but did she know that her baby boy was going to be “Lord of all creation”?
“Surely,” she sang, “all generations will call me blessed.”