The simple question surprised and convicted me: “Who is Mary to you?”
By Christine McParland, originally posted on Tyndale’s online Advent calendar
A couple of years ago I read through a new Advent devotional. Each day featured a passage from one of the Gospels, a brief reflection (rarely longer than the Scripture passage listed before it), and a question or two followed by space for journaling. My only reservation about this devotional was its Catholic author; as a born-and-raised evangelical Protestant, I was wary of doctrinal differences and wondered if they would come up in the devotional.
On December 8th, the gospel passage was Luke 1:26-38, also known as the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would bear God’s Son. Here it comes. I braced myself for whatever Marian dogma would be presented in the reflection. But the author merely talked about Mary’s humility in accepting this high calling from God—a virtue both Catholics and Protestants would attribute to Jesus’ mother. Ok, so far, so good.
But the reflection question caught me off guard. Instead of asking something Catholic-y like if I prayed the rosary, the author simply posed the question, “Who is Mary to you?”
My immediate response was both surprising and convicting: she’s just another name in the Bible to me.
I didn’t understand or agree with Catholic devotion to Mary, but in that moment I realized my own view of her was wrong. The woman who carried, bore, and raised God-in-the-flesh wasn’t just another name in the Bible. Through Mary, our Savior came into the world.
God could have chosen any woman for the honor of bearing his Son. But for his own divine reasons, he chose Mary. And if God honored this humble woman from Nazareth, it seemed fitting that I should also esteem her—at least with more than a passing reference at Christmastime in the form of carols or Nativity scenes.
I didn’t know what that meant or looked like, but I began to realize that honoring Jesus’ mother was less about Mary herself and more about appreciating God’s plan of salvation.
Jesus could have even entered the world as a fully grown human and bypassed family life in Nazareth. But the fact that he chose to begin his earthly existence as an embryo in a womb, born to humble parents, and raised in a poor village for the first thirty years of his life, speaks highly of the value he placed on the family and even motherhood itself.
From the womb to the tomb, Jesus chose to enter the full range of human experience. Truly he is God with us.
This Advent, let’s come and worship the Son of God who chose to be born of Mary. Let’s imagine ourselves joining her in adoring the Child in her arms: her Son, but also her Creator and Savior—and ours too.
Advent is more than a countdown to Christmas Day. It’s a season to prepare our hearts to celebrate the incarnation of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Thankfully, this kind of preparation doesn’t require a lot of time, tinsel, ingredients, or wrappings. The only thing needed is to come and worship.
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