Christmas evokes images of a calm, tranquil night, a sweet little baby in the manger, cattle quietly standing in the background. And Mary. Always Mary, the radiant new mother, so meek and mild. When she appears in Christmas scenes and carols, she is always so serene in her “maiden bliss” (“In the Bleak Midwinter”), the “Virgin Mother kind” (“Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming”). One of the most popular songs in recent years has been the beautiful song “Mary, Did You Know?” in which the singer recounts the many deeds that Jesus will do in his life, and asks whether Mary was aware that this sweet little baby was actually God. It is a beautiful and moving piece of music. But for all these Christmas carol portrayals of her, the Scriptures tell us that Mary was anything but meek and mild, anything but unaware.
According to Luke’s Gospel, Mary was a bold and unapologetically fierce woman. While she was surprised to learn God’s plan for her, she quickly turned from surprise to praise, and threw her whole being into proclaiming the greatness of God. For Mary, this was not just a chance to be meek and mild, to sit back while her God changed the world around her. It was her invitation to participate in the changing of the world, to be part of God’s story in which, as she sings in the Magnificat (Luke 1:46-55), the powerful are brought down from their thrones, the lowly are lifted up, the hungry are filled, and the rich are sent away empty. Mary is a strong woman from a line of strong women (she was from the region of the Maccabees, after all, who stood up to the Seleucid Empire and gained independence for Judea). She had no doubt that God would act, and would act through her, for the good of the most vulnerable.
This Mary is a role model for our times. Unapologetic and bold, Mary shows us what it looks like when God breaks into this world, and how we can join in with that in-breaking light. Mary lifts up her voice in song, in praise of the God who would choose her to carry Christ, to bring Christ to the world. But Mary was not the only one called to do this. Each Christmas, we celebrate the light that shines in the darkness, the God who was born into this world to bring justice, peace and reconciling love. And each Christmas, indeed each day, we are called to join in that story. We are called to join our voices to Mary’s, praising God’s power to bring justice, to spread loving kindness, to bring reconciliation to the whole world, as God has always promised.
This is the voice of Christmas. The voice of Mary, and of all of us. It is the voice of love and power that brings light and life to all of Creation. Merry Christmas and Happy and Blessed New Year!