I typed a link to a you-tube video above because it is my favorite Christmas song, ever. And I think Kathy Mattea, the singer, did it the best I’ve heard. Not sure why her version touches me the most, but it does! The song? “Mary, did you know?” The song speaks to the wonder most of us feel, gazing upon our babies. Only in this case it is particularly poignant, because Mary is the Theotokos, or Mother of God. Her Son is God, the Christ Child come to save us all. I’ve spoken before about our period of preparation prior to Christmas, and that it is almost as important as Christmas, itself.
“In the sixth month, 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 be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name 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 the house of Jacob 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 upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called 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 barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.” “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.” Luke 1; 26-38 (RSV) It is agreed in Christian theology that this occurred. So why would a song writer pen the lyrics to this song, asking if Mary knew all these things about her Son?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would some day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would give sight to a blind man?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you’ve kissed your little baby, you’ve kissed the face of God?
Oh Mary did you know?
The blind will see, the deaf will hear, the dead will live again.
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, the praises of the lamb.
Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you’re holding is the great I AM?
All the questions the writer poses to Mary are all the same questions we should pose to ourselves, as we prepare to receive Him at Christmas; this little baby prepared to save each and every one of us. Did you know? Perhaps Mary did not know the details that would surround Her Son during His lifetime. But she knew, oh yes, she knew He was the Son of God and also “the great I AM!” In Old Testament terms, the “great I AM” is how people would refer to God, because no one felt that saying His name was appropriate. Yahweh is another term used for “God.” When we really think about the fact that God manifested Himself as an infant, coming to walk among us as a man, devoid of the pomp and circumstance common to rulers in that age, it is pretty incredible – meaning almost “not-credible.” Why would God do that? I mean, some of the most amazing things of the Old Testament are when God would do something out-of-the-ordinary, signifying His Presence. I love the imagery of Moses’ face as played by Charleton Heston, after seeing God in the Burning Bush. He was astonished; his face was sunburned and his hair bleached completely white. Or Elijah ascending on his fiery chariot up into the sky? Moses parted the Red Sea! But this Baby comes in a cave (in most versions of the story) among the cattle, on a cold night under a cloudless sky. The Christmas Star appears (only in the Gospel of Matthew) and the Shepherds come to adore the Child (Luke 2:8-18). It is all so quiet, so serene, so peaceful. No crowds, no parades, no splendor; a simple birth (“…and she brought forth her firstborn Son…” Luke 2:7).
So did Mary realize the immensity of this event? I think both she and Joseph were fully aware of their participation in the salvation history of God. We don’t really hear much about Joseph in the gospels from here on out. Christ was a carpenter, as was Joseph, during His life before His preaching began. So we know that Joseph influenced Him as a child and young man. The early years of Christ are shrouded in mystery. Perhaps it was because they were mundane and normal until His ministry began. So Mary, at His birth, was perhaps not aware of the fullness of His yet-to-be-lived life of ministry and His Ultimate Sacrifice on the Cross. But she was very aware of HIM!
We celebrated the birthday of our youngest son last night. I cannot fully express what an incredible evening it was. So much was against it happening, at all, and yet it was a great night. The weather wreaked havoc on our plans with icy rain, slick roads, closed schools, highways, and transportation. But it happened, and it happened through the efforts of my husband daring to get our Costco pizzas and our older son and his wife’s determination that his brother’s birthday would be a great one. They blazed a trail through the ice and snow, bringing friends over and an amazing cake! They played a pretty amazing prank on me, too! I loved that! (Shhhh….they think I freaked out but it was so fun!!). My son and his friends had a ball together, and I was able to stand back, and watch my children interact and just smile; my heart aglow with it all.
The pregnancy I had with my older son was so frightening. I was in and out of the hospital so many times, that when I showed up at the labor room, everyone knew me by name. I was there so often, I had my favorite labor-monitoring chair! He was born 5-weeks prematurely and we rejoiced that he was here, and healthy, and alive. I was so afraid of NICU’s and the whole preemie process, that when he was born, God lightened our fears! He was 8 lbs and 20.5 inches long. All the NICU equipment they had on standby was too small for him. The oxygen mask, the isolette, all the little t-shirts, booties, blankets and hats – too small. He was the biggest baby born that day, and the only boy in the newborn section! Our youngest son had a pretty rough time of it, too. He was just 18-inches long and only 6 pounds. I wasn’t used to such little babies! (My middle son’s pregnancy and birth were so normal, I felt neglected by my OB/GYN! He was 8 lbs. 9 oz!). And as I sat on the couch last night, watching my oldest and youngest sons interacting over a new air-soft gun (given by the eldest to the youngest) my heart just swelled with love. I was holding my grand daughter, seated next to my daughter-in-law, and chatting with both her and my husband, while our almost-2-year-old grandson ran around the room. It was pretty much perfect. (Just missing our middle son and his family – whose birthday it also was!!).
Did I imagine or envision this event at the births of my sons? When I was holding my oldest boy in my arms, did I imagine him as a husband and father? Did I see him as a big brother? A soldier? When my middle son was born with those gorgeous strawberry blonde curls, did I imagine him holding his strawberry blonde baby girl? His marriage? His college graduation? When my youngest son was placed in my arms, did I see him as that adorable toddler he grew to be? As a teenager? A pilot? No to any of that. All I saw, when I held my children, were these precious babies, themselves – little baby boys, alive, wiggly, and beautiful in my arms.
Mary participated in the salvific history of mankind in a special and unique way. But she also participated in the act of creation, with the Creator Himself, God. Each of us who bears a child participates in that same creative process with Our Creator. What a gift, this gift of life is. And each year, at Christmas, I feel myself participate, once again, with the Theotokos, as she holds her Baby Boy.
Mary, did you know?