Mary Did You Know?
I really like to analyze songs. Any song, any genre. I like to think about what the musicality brings to the song, I like to hear how the words paint a picture in your head of what the artist is trying to convey, and I like to put myself into the story to see if I can relate to it. Specifically with worship songs, I like to think about how they might be perceived by different groups of people (I’m a communication major, can you blame me?) I like to think about different hymns and worship songs from the perspective of my grandparents. Do the words speak to them? I like to think about praise from the perspective of a new Christian. What does this song teach that person about who God is?
A song that a lot of people like to debate around Christmastime is “Mary Did You Know?” Quite frankly, that is a song that I have never had much interest in looking into, mostly because I think it’s pretty but also because I don’t know that we can ever really prove what Mary knew or didn’t know. But I do know that when the angel visited her in Galilee to tell her about the next main event in her life, she knew some of the challenges she’d be facing.
What We Know About Mary
It is believed that Mary was 16 or 17 years old when the angel Gabriel visited her in Luke 1:26-38. She was freshly betrothed to a man named Joseph, who was probably just a couple of years older than her. This story is a classic told at Christmastime, but I think we often view Mary as the means to an end: the way Jesus came to earth. While that is true, Mary plays an important role in this story, and I think we have a lot more to learn from her.
I often used to think of Mary as this sweet, innocent, engaged girl who was obedient to the Lord. While I think this is true, I also believe that Mary has many character strengths that we look past as we anticipate the birth of her son. These character strengths paint the picture of a strong woman, a faithful follower of God, and a dedicated mother who was willing to risk her own reputation for the sake of Christ.
Luke 1:26-38 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[a] the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.” “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
What Mary Did and Didn’t Know
Mary had to have been one of the strongest 16 year olds I know. Women in Roman times were viewed as property, not as people. If Mary was not a virgin, she probably wouldn’t have been given to Joseph in marriage. Matthew’s account tells us that Joseph had it in his mind to divorce her quietly when he found out what had happened. (Obviously the Lord stepped in and let Joseph in on the whole plan).
While I am sure Mary trusted God to be faithful as she bore His son, she knew that she was putting her reputation, marriage, and family status on the line. She knew that no one would believe her if she told them the truth. And she knew that people would treat her differently if she went through with it. Yet she was faithful.
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.”
I don’t really know if Mary knew that one day her baby boy would rule the nations or walk on water or heal the blind. I am sure that in 9 months of pregnancy, she had a lot of time to imagine how the Son of the Most High would interact here on earth. I am sure she had many dreams and plans for him as a mother. But I don’t really know, and it doesn’t bother me that I don’t, what Mary did or did not know. Because she didn’t need to know all of the details to be obedient.
Themes In Her Story:
SACRIFICIAL OBEDIENCE: Obedience is better than sacrifice, but sometimes those go hand in hand. 1 Samuel 15:22 tells us that the Lord desires obedience over sacrifice, but here we see that Mary’s obedience to God required her to sacrifice her reputation, her good standing, and potentially even her marriage and livelihood. Even later in her life we see as she cares for Jesus and allows Him to do what God sent Him to do, she must sacrifice the life of her son on a criminal’s cross – something a mother should never have to witness.
FRUIT OF OBEDIENCE: Willingness to do what God calls us to is more rewarding than following our own plan. Mary’s life was blessed because she got to witness Jesus’ ministry firsthand. Even though her son died on a cross, he rose again three days later to save the entire world and restore our relationship to God. What a proud mother she must have been!