We all know that Christmas is really centered on the fact of Jesus Christ’s birth in a humble town called Bethlehem more than two millenniums ago. The miraculous part of his birth should be as intriguing to us now as it was in the time that he came to us and walked this earth. It remains so for many and yet most people seldom think about all the obvious implications of Jesus’ circumstances. For most non-Catholics, Mary is quietly in the background (except during Christmas, of course) unobtrusively garnering no esteem. However, Mary played an important role being his mother and more inherent than we understand in a natural and a supernatural way.
There are several reasons why I believe this is true and they are very important reasons. Jewish people have a saying that is very telling about their culture and religion:
“God could not be everywhere and therefore He made mothers.”
This is not just a Hebrew tradition, actually. You will find that a mother’s role, in nearly every culture and ethnic group on our planet, is a very influential and dominant presence in the lives of her children. Often this role doesn’t subside with maturity, age or financial independence of the child. Her role can continue the same for the entire life of the child if the relationship remains good and healthy. When reading through the Bible and particularly the New Testament, you will not find a whole lot of mention of Mary outside of the nativity and other key moments during Jesus life while here on earth. We have to improvise and fill-in that ever present role and muse on what she would have spoken to him beyond what was recorded. If someone had purposely chronicled Jesus life from birth to his ascension- paying particular attention to Mary’s point of view- I believe we would have understood Jesus life here on earth even better than we already feel that we do. Others, not quite so well acquainted, would perhaps have found Jesus human characteristics intriguing and also empathetic.
Before Jesus birth, angels appeared not only to Mary but also to Joseph who would eventually take on the responsibility of being an earthly father to Jesus. Here is an interesting circumstance to analyze. Jesus knew at a very young age that his father was a supernatural father. It was obviously discussed between Jesus, his mother and Joseph. Several times, however, they had to be reminded by Jesus and I’m sure it became obvious that no matter how ordinary Jesus tried to live his life, his ultimate destiny would only be extraordinary and he continually moved in that direction and quite early.
Let me take you back to the time that Jesus was 12 years of age. Every year his parents, like many, went to Jerusalem during the Feast of the Passover which lasts eight full days. When they turned back for home, Jesus lingered in Jerusalem without their knowledge until a day’s journey had passed. When they inquired among those who traveled with them of his whereabouts, no one knew and they returned to Jerusalem to find him. After two days they discovered he had remained at the temple where he was seriously discussing scripture with the rabbis. The rabbis were astounded at his intelligence and comprehension of their learned talk and they must have kept him engaged enough that both Mary and Joseph heard him as well. Mary chided him, like a mother usually would and said that he had caused both of them concern and worry. His answer,” Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” most likely confused Joseph who saw Jesus as his son, as would any good father. But in Luke 2:51 it states simply that Jesus then left with them, honoring them as he should according to the commandments but Mary pondered all these things in her heart. His bar mitzvah would be soon but this is not a coming of age. At age 13, the Jewish tradition is the age of accountability which simply means fully understanding the laws and precepts of their religion. Jesus could have argued with the rabbis so he showed a maturity way beyond what would have been required for someone his age!
Mary did well to ponder Jesus’ words and I’m sure that she considered Jesus words as being directly from her Heavenly Father. Her role became a quandary at that point. She continued to be involved in Jesus life clear up to the time of his crucifixion, resurrection and ascension. I’m sure that she must have been a bit confused as to what she should do on many occasions. She did not interfere even when it must have appeared to be imminent. She could not have foreseen the crucifixion of this incredible son to which she had given birth and she was not told perhaps because she may have tried to stop it. Mary was intended to be a mother like any other who loves her children. None of us can imagine what it must have been like to see the latter part of Jesus’ life as it unfolded. I can only say that it must have been agonizing.
However, we can relate to Mary in a way that unsaved sinners cannot. Unlike what is commonly believed among catholic believers, Mary was not chosen to be the mother of Jesus because she was a virgin, free of sin. She was chosen and then she said to the angel bearing the news, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” She said yes, in other words. The matter of a holy birth does not remain in question either. As the angel continued to talk to Mary it was explained to her that she would be overshadowed by the power of God (the Most High) and that the holy spirit would come upon her and as a result the child born to her would be holy. Therefore, I conclude that God cleansed her of sin and then she was given a son who was conceived by God and no other. This can be referred to as the immaculate conception. There would be no other way since, according to David, all of us are born in sin regardless of our parents marital status. ( In Psalm 51: 5 he sang Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity. And in sin my mother conceived me.)
As a human, not born in sin, Jesus became God’s perfect plan to effect salvation for us through His son because he became the actual and final Lamb of God- the one without spot or wrinkle. Jesus became the ultimate substitute for Isaac who would have been sacrificed many centuries before to test the faithfulness of Abraham. God provided a substitute then and he did so again upon the cross, sacrificing the precious son he had brought into the world. We can become cleansed just like Mary. We have to open up and say “yes” to our Heavenly Father and mean every bit of our affirmative. The same way that Jesus was a gift to Mary in a carnal and supernatural sense, God intended Jesus to be the ultimate gift to the entirety of humanity. He did it out of love and the gift to us is love.
This Christmas can mean so much more than our usual mode of celebration. We can be so busy trying to create our own extraordinary Christmas that we have forgotten that the nativity was humble but in extraordinary circumstances. Indeed the only aspect of Christmas that was truly extraordinary is that Jesus- the actual son of God- was born of a virgin and was born for a direct purpose which was to procure the remission of sins. No other human being proclaiming deity can lay such a claim. Love was God’s extraordinary gift, brought in the form of a baby child in the humblest of circumstances. Our only obligation is to accept this gift with a ‘yes’ to God in faith and believing- just like Mary and then stand back and watch God work.
© Evelyn M. Wallace All rights reserved by author
November 1, 2014
He lived not as a king but a servant.
He chose not an earthly Kingdom but a cross.
He gave not just a little but everything. -Holley Gerth