When Gabriel said to Mary, “you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus”, I don’t think this is quite what the angel had in mind:
But, lo! The toddler Zoe, whose grubby fist hovers on the edge of this tender manger scene, had other ideas. Ideas that involved her red car and a lot of sound effects from the sheep.
On this fourth Sunday of Advent, we (finally) spend some time with Mary, the poor, small town, teenage girl who became a prophet. Who became the Mother of God, or as Greek Orthodox Christians call her, theotokos, the God-bearer.
A lot of the commentaries I read this week lament the fact that we see Mary not as a bold prophet, or even as the mother of God, but as a passive, obedient, meek and mild girl who goes with the flow and gazes lovingly at the manger once a year. Several blamed the Christmas pageants many of us will experience in worship today.
And I think it’s true that Mary has received short shrift, especially in Protestant circle. And maybe those sweet pageants should take some of the blame. But I will never forget the six-year-old redhead who marched proudly down the aisle in a big blue button up shirt last year to take her place beside seven-year-old Joseph. Was it adorable? Of course. But it was also incarnational. It reminded me that Mary was a girl, a real girl, whom God used to do something amazing.
Wherever you see Mary in the week ahead–in a Christmas pageant, on a card, in a nativity scene–remember that she is theotokos, but also remember that she is as ordinary as you are. Which is, in fact, extraordinary.