This week as I prepare to preach on Mary, Mother of Our Lord whose festival day falls on a Sunday this year, I’ve been pondering a lot about Mary. And even though I’m not a Roman Catholic, the catholic or universal nature of faith and the mother of Jesus means that for this Lutheran flavored Christian… there is just something about Mary.
Mary is honored by the church with her Greek title theotokos, which translates as God-bearer. For it was through God’s promise to Mary and promise keeping that her life revealed the presence of God incarnate, God with us, Jesus the Christ who came not for the rich and famous but for the poor and humble. God could have chosen anyone to bear God’s self to and for the world, but God blessed Mary and she sings in joy with every fiber of her being.
From my perspective, it is not how about whether Mary was or wasn’t free from original sin, or later literally gave birth to brothers of Jesus. Christians confess in the major common creeds (Nicene and Apostles) a virginal conception. Most Christians since the first century have taught that Jesus was conceived by Mary while she was a virgin through the action of the Holy Spirit without an act of sexual intercourse. What is important is that Mary was the bearer of Emmanuel, God with us.
Mary can’t keep the enormity of what is happening inside her. Mary through her song of praise known as the Magnificat in Luke 1:46-55 literally bursts into song out of joy and tells the world about the good news of God acting in, through and among us. As I wrestled with what to preach, I recognize that we often are not filled with joy and many struggle to relate to Mary and her song of praise given their circumstances.
A friend responding to my pondering about Mary put a song in my ear and on my heart that helps bridge this gap. In the popular 1800’s hymn My Life Flows on in Endless Song, Mary’s joy is captured in the last line of the refrain: “…how can I keep from singing?” But the text speaks of life’s lamentations and storms and times when we can’t hear the joyful song. But the beginning of the refrain grounds us on darkest days with the promise that “since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth, how can we keep from singing!” I am thankful for Mary’s God bearing, that she couldn’t keep from singing, and that her joy-filled life connects God’s promises of old with each of us through Jesus.