The ‘real Mary’?
2 Samuel 7.1-11, 16
Luke 1.47-55 (responsive)
Will the real Mary please stand?
Who was Mary?
Was she meek, mild, submissive, not very worldly-wise? That’s a common image of Mary, the wide-eyed mother holding her baby, looking as though butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth… But is that really Mary?
It must be said: we don’t know much about Mary. And a lot of what we think we know has been filtered through the imaginations of people through the ages, many of them celibate men and women who never once held their own child in their arms. Because I have to say, that’s a life-changing experience which helps you ‘get’ Mary, one that grounds you in the realities of life, of poop, of piercing cries and demands for food now. And it also teaches you what love and delight can be.
Whoever the real Mary was, she held her own child in her arms. She knew the need to protect, to love, to nurture that child.
Luke gives us a fuller picture of Mary than anyone else. His Mary immediately sees her future Son as a sign. A sign of the coming justice of God. So Mary sings:
My soul magnifies the Lord,
And my spirit rejoices
in God my Saviour…
But more than that, Mary proclaims this as good news:
You have filled the hungry with good things
and sent the rich away empty.
You have come to the aid
of your servant Israel,
to remember the promise of mercy,
the promise made to our forebears,
to Abraham and his children for ever.
And later, her Son would sing that song anew in the synagogue of Nazareth as he proclaimed this good news:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor.
He has sent me
to proclaim release to the captives
and recovery of sight to the blind,
to let the oppressed go free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.
Mary protected and nurtured a Son who was to be the world’s Saviour. She had no idea what was ahead of her; like the rest of us, she put one foot in front of the other day after day and watched her Child grow.
This picture that Luke gives us of Mary is a bit different from the ‘meek-mild Mary’ we may be used to. Let’s look in a bit more detail.