“Mary, did you know/ That your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?/ Did you know/ That your baby boy will calm a storm with His hand?/ Did you know/ That your baby boy has walked where angels trod?/ And when you kiss your little boy/ You’ve kissed the face of God…” –Mark Lowry
I love the Christmas season. Advent does not even seem long enough to prepare for Christmas. A mere four weeks simply does not give enough time to be ready for the holiday. I have always loved Christmas, as far back as I can remember. I’m sure that the showering of gifts didn’t hurt my childhood love of the holiday, but there is so much more to it than that.
I love the preparation for Christmas. As I think about my family’s traditions, so much comes to mind that I will have to save that for another night. So full of nostalgia and comfort, our rituals are as much a part of the holiday as the date itself. I love the closeness of people, the openness and generosity, that surrounds the holiday. I love the food, the celebration and joy that surrounds the day. And I especially love Christmas carols.
Working retail has almost broken me of my love for Christmas music. For a holiday that is deeply religious in its origin, there are few songs that are strictly secular. Those few are the ones that repeat all day long in the store. They are jolly and festive, but rarely as moving as those that at least mention, if not celebrate, the origin of the holiday.
Today, for the first time this season, I heard part of Mary Did You Know? on the radio. This song, first introduced to me in Catholic elementary school, has always moved me. The lyrics are beautiful and the song is almost haunting in its questioning. Did she know that the baby she carried would be who He was? I have studied the Gospels in detail and I know the stories of the Nativity relatively well. Biblically, the angel came to her and another visited Joseph. Sure, they got the jist of what was to come, of how much this child would change their lives. So little scripture is devoted to them and the start of their family, that it’s easy to over-simplify the gravity of their situation. I wonder how much they really understood.
This song hits so deeply at the personal side of the story. I think this is probably why I find it so moving. My dad has told me that as a parent it is a completely different experience to listen to the lyrics. Did that girl have any idea what she and her little boy were in for? As she felt Him grow, as she gave birth, as she held and fed and bathed Him, did she have any idea? Could she have foreseen the crucifixion when she washed His scraped knees? Did she really understand the incarnation of God in her baby? Can anyone wrap their mind around that in a finite way? Or was she just a new mother, glad that the child was alive and had ten fingers and toes?
I spent Thanksgiving with my aunt and uncle and my two young cousins. One of my cousins just turned five and the other one. They are such tiny people, already forming personalities. They have opinions and ideas and tell stories. Despite these things, they are so unformed. There is so much more about them that will develop and grow and define them. It’s exciting to think that they are just starting to become actual people, to be more than cute little talking dolls. I don’t see them as often as I would like, so when I do, they are so different! They change and grow so quickly, and I’m excited to watch them grow up. The older they get, the more excited I am to know them and witness their lives unfolding.
I wonder if Mary and Joseph felt the same way. Did they revere their son and see Him as God, or did they get excited when He started to become someone. Did they know He was destined for things that the word “great” doesn’t even begin to describe, or was is just fun to hear Him tell stories and be excited over bugs and leaves and every little that caught His eye? I know that Christianity, and particularly Catholicism, place Mary in high esteem and like to think of her as holy and special. I do not think that she was unimportant or ordinary. I do think she was human. I think it makes the story so much better to think of her that way. She was a young, first-time mother who knew her baby was different, knew that she was different, but couldn’t possibly know the big picture. She was a mom. It had to have been hard and tiring and exciting and scary and joyful and frustrating and everything in between. It had to have been fun to watch His hesitant first steps and hear Him talk about His friends and watch Him be a big brother. The biggest part of the miracle of Christmas, the part that is so important, was the humanity. God became human. It’s a much better story when His parents are too.
“If help and salvation are to come, they can only come from the children, for the children are the makers of men.” –Maria Montessori