Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Did Mary Really Know?

As I read Luke, chapters 1 through 3 today, I paused to reflect about Mary. In the second chapter of Luke, I read that Mary and Joseph were fulfilling purification laws dating back to the days of Moses. They presented Jesus to the priests, offering him back to God as required of firstborn sons. There was this guy (named Simeon) in the temple who had been praying and awaiting something spectacular. When Mary and Joseph appeared with their baby, Simeon "knew" his waiting was over. He prophesied over Jesus; Mary and Joseph were amazed. Why were they amazed?

Gabriel himself had visited Mary to tell her what was going to happen to her. An angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, telling him to marry Mary in spite of her pre-marital prenancy. Mary's cousin, Elizabeth (while pregnant with John) calls her the "mother of my Lord." Shepherds visited Mary and Jesus while he was still a baby, led there by heralding angels. Scholars, led by a star and confirmed by Herod's inquiry of high priests and scholars, brought gifts when he was a child, presumably close to two years of age. And then, Mary and Joseph were "surprised" once again when Jesus himself (at the age of 12) told them he was tending to his "Father's" business.

How can all this happen and yet have a mother not really know who her son was?

I'm trying to put myself in her place. Okay, so an angel comes to me telling me I am going to get pregnant without intercourse. Okay, so I don't argue with the angel. If my old cousin Elizabeth can get pregnant, so can I, if God says so. Besides, the angel said in so many words, this son of mine is going to be a ruler (think worldly, not spritually). So what do I do now? I know! Run! So I go to visit my old pregnant cousin for 3 months. When I return to Bethlehem, I've got to realize by then I'm pregnant; I've missed three periods. I tell Joseph. He seeks to put me away privately until God tells him in a dream it's okay to marry me because my pregnancy is His idea.

So from this point on, I have to imagine being pregnant but not by the man I've married. I imagine a kind of loneliness. Think about it! Who can I discuss this with? Joseph married me, but does he share my joy and uncertainty? When the baby kicks in my womb, do I run to him and place his hand on my belly? Surely, the neighbors are talking and counting the months on their fingers. We just got married; how can I be so big with child?

So comes the time to give birth. I am still in wonder. Is this really going to happen? What is this baby going to look like? Will Joseph love him, too? The baby is born. He looks normal. Shepherds pay a visit. Angels told them about my son? Why? Have I forgotten the angel's exact words by now? Maybe. Because a few days later when we go to the temple and Simeon prophesied over him, I am amazed. My son is really going to be great?

So now, fast-forward through a fearful move to Egypt; dealing with sleepless nights with a crying, pooping baby; endless "diaper" changes; teaching him to walk and talk; weaning him; and dealing with a pre-teen runaway. I think just like us, Mary got lost in the day-to-day cares of living. I think, because she was mothering a human being, not a "God with us", she could only partly "know" who Jesus was. I think day-to-day concerns overpowered what little she understood of the words delivered by the angel.

It's easy for us in our day and time, sitting comfortably in our easy chairs reading the gospels to clearly "get it." But Mary didn't have scripture from the New Testament laid before her to read and examine. And I believe her revelation was limited. So, I've decided to cut her some slack.

I wonder what revelations would unfold if I had the opportunity to read the gospel of my life.

Mary kept all these things to herself, holding them dear, deep within herself. Luke 2:19, 51

1 comment:

Peggy said...

I read all of your posts. You really are a pearl.