Last week, I wrote about the song “Mary did you know.” I mentioned the controversy around it (yes, Mary did know, why are you asking?) but went in the direction of how valuable it is to ask questions and wonder about the characters in the Christmas Story. How else can we engage them, get to know them, relate to them. Imagine the story coming alive. Imagine the different perspectives in the story from all those characters. Imagine what that might say to us today. Imagine the timeless story finding its way into today’s world.
I also suggested that the angel’s visit to Mary provided only the big picture, not the details of getting there, first to the birth and then the life which will be lived. In talking about that, I referred to the expectations of the people for what kind of messiah would be coming. It’s something we’re often reminded of, particularly at Christmas, but also later, when Jesus arrives in Jerusalem that last week of his life. I wrote “remember, just like so many of the other characters in the story, Mary’s understanding of the messiah they were expecting was likely a warrior-king with wealth and armies that would overthrow the oppressor and restore the glory of Israel. Truly, that would be somebody that would be worthy of ‘the throne of his ancestor David.’”
Someone called me on my minister-splaining and suggested that it’s possible Mary didn’t think that at all. What if the reason Mary was chosen, the reason she was “favoured” by God, was because she believed that the messiah could be something different? What if Mary knew the messiah could be a bringer of peace, not war, a healer, a builder, a lover? What if Mary could already imagine something different? What if there were others who wondered that, too? “You may say that I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one,” sings John Lennon in Imagine.
What if that’s how the adult Jesus connected so closely with the twelve seemingly random people he chose as his inner circle of friends? What if that’s how Jesus connected with all his followers: that they, too, dreamed of love and peace and grace, that they, too, intuitively knew we are all both human and divine?
That’s a lot of questions, but that’s just my point: I want to know more. I want the characters in the story to be more than flat, one-dimensional set pieces that justify a particular religious thought or tradition. I want them to be people that I can relate to, complicated and simple, fearful and strong, faithful and tempted, loving and challenged by love, divine and human.
Mary may have been “meek and mild,” she may also have been tough and strong. Perhaps she was innocent and naive or she may have been an old soul, aware of the wonders of the universe. She may have been so much more than the bare words of old gospel writers. I wonder if she could tell us more about that.