This Sunday, my favorite in Advent, we read the Magnificat and sing songs about Mary. In our church, our small and humble crew will sing a song I wrote called "My soul doth magnify." Each time I sing this song, I am reminded of the pain and anxiety I was feeling when I wrote it two years ago. But I am also reminded of the promises, the praise, and the humility behind Mary's words:
"For he hath regarded my lowliness and called me blessed He that is mighty hath done great things to me and holy is his name."
Often called meek and mild, the Mary of my imagination is nothing of the kind. A young teenager, called upon to be the mother of God, she was given the choice to carry this child. Her response:"Let it be with me just as you say."
Having been pregnant three times in my thirties, I imagine that young pregnant girl bouncing to Bethlehem on a donkey.* There is nothing gentle or mild about pregnancy or an arduous journey on the back of a beast. There is only aching, bleeding, sleepless nights on the ground.
What is a better description of Mary, this girl we venerate and praise?
In her Advent reflection in the book God with us, Luci Shaw talks about the Biblical witnesses who saw the lives of Jesus and John, who observed the risks they took on the path of faithfulness. "In spite of obstacles," Shaw says, "they rarely hold back."Shaw gives us a word for this spirit of courage: "wholeheartedness."
Though we know Jesus had holy DNA, he also was human. He had, running through his veins, the blood of his earthly mother. Maybe he learned much of his bold, risk-taking faith from watching and living with his mother, whose grit brought him into the world.
Who is this Mary whose blood runs through the veins of God?
Meek and mild?
Brave. Bold. Wholehearted.
*Some scholars argue that Joseph was too poor to own a donkey. In that case, Mary probably walked to Bethlehem which was 70 miles from Nazareth.
Picture by Sue Koumo Johnson