Mary. You know, the woman with a gold halo around her head holding baby Jesus in most Renaissance paintings. The girl who was younger than me ––maybe by six years ––when an angel appeared to her and said she’d have a baby while still a virgin. (Wait, you haven’t had a conversation like that?) The one chosen to finally, finally bring the Messiah into the world.
I’m a Protestant, so I don’t pray to her or agree with how people lift her up to more than human status, like she was ultra-spiritual or somehow fundamentally different from the rest of us. I think the point is that she was just like the rest of us, and that God still graciously chose to use her. But that isn’t in any way to downplay her incredible, unthinkable role in this story.
So much art has been created about Mary. Here is my addition, my attempt to peek into her life, a life I can barely begin to imagine.
They paint me in blue dresses, gold tresses, and rosebud lips,
But my tunic was stained, a little short, with a myriad rips.
I was dark, like a log in the fire, like a sparrow in flight,
And my lips laughed, sang, whispered questions at night.
They paint me as the one God favored, pure in heart
As if I knew beforehand that I would play this part.
But my life was safe, and simple, full of sweet dreams;
They have no idea how the angel tore it at the seams.
Mostly they don’t understand that when God chose me to bless,
His grace not only opened my womb—it opened my mouth to say yes.
For it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
~ Philippians 2:13
Could it be that he is only waiting there to see / If I will learn to love the dreams that he has dreamed for me?
~ Twila Paris
And two of my favorite Christmas songs, both of them about Mary: