It’s easy to see Mary through twenty-first century eyes as the esteemed and admired mother of Jesus, respected by everyone. But we do so to our own impoverishment. She became all of these things, of course, but she didn’t start out that way. She began as a frightened teenage girl, pregnant and unmarried. Her intended, Joseph, had it in his mind to quietly get out of their pending marriage since he knew he was not the father of Mary’s child as he had not been with her sexually. It took an appearance by an angel to convince him that marriage to Mary was the right thing to do.
That hardly put an end to her problems though. What did she tell her parents? Her friends? The synagogue? The neighbors? Did she tell them she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit and endure the ridicule that would have followed or did she just choose to silently bear her shame? Neither path would be easy, but whatever she chose, she hung in there. She must have wondered why God would make something so unquestionably magnificent (the birth of His Son), so full of difficulty and hardship.
When Luke recorded Mary’s song of praise to God in his gospel (Luke 1:46-55), we must remind ourselves that these were not the words of someone who had made it through the storm, but of someone who was still very much in the midst of the storm. Fierce winds of criticism and ridicule were ripping away at her and the rains of uncertainty were pelting down upon her as she offered up precious words of adoration to her King. But we should hear more than lovely sounding phrases and lines; we should hear the distinctive timber of determined trust from a seriously troubled teenager who has thrown her lot in totally with God. Unbowed and unbent, she resolutely looked to Him and celebrated the deliverance He brings. She is full of wonder at who He is and what He does. These were her words from within the storm and what a song it is!
And the beaten down world needed to hear her song! In heaven I imagine there will be songs like this from each of us and that will be fine, but it won’t be needed then as it is now. In heaven we’ll be “preaching to the choir” for sure – no one will need to hear our song like they do right now. So in the midst of pain and confusion, Mary sang her song for a broken world.
Arthur Gordon told of a lonely, elderly woman who lost her beloved pet in the bombings on Britain. When the disconsolate woman buried it, she put up a marker by the grave that read; “There is not enough darkness in all the world to put out the light of one small candle.” Don’t you love that spirit? And when the Persian king, Xerxes, confronted Leonidas and his little band of three hundred Spartans at the mountain pass of Themopylae, he warned them that his army was so numerous (and they were), that when they shoot their arrows it would darken the sun. Leonidas’ reply was that if this is the case, his men will be fighting in the shade. And isn’t there something thrilling about a teenage girl who announced to world, “You can take your best shot at me, but I’ve made up my mind to stand with God” and then goes out and does it?