What if Mary wasn’t exceptional? What if she wasn’t particularly pious or good or faithful? What if she was just a typical Jewish teenager?
There are two reasons I think she might have been more like the rest of us than we imagine.
One, when the angel of the Lord tells her that she has “found favor” with God, she is “greatly troubled” with his words. I wonder whether she doesn’t think she deserves God’s favor or whether she thinks God has made some sort of mistake. I wonder whether she is worried about the unmerited nature of grace and feels like she isn’t good enough for God’s blessing. I wonder whether she is like most of us, bewildered by the idea that God would delight in who we are and want to bless us and love us and invite us into the work of healing and love in the world.
Two, Matthew mentions four women in the genealogical runup to announcing Jesus’ birth to Mary. Those four women are all outcasts in some way. These women include foreigners, widows, and also women who have a questionable reputation—Tamar impersonated a prostitute and Rahab worked as one. There are all sorts of theological reasons for this—Matthew wanted to make it clear that Jesus was coming for the outsider and that they were included in the family of God. And Mary’s status as an unwed mother made her an outsider, regardless of the reasons—the holy reasons—for her pregnancy. But still, the lineup of these four that culminates in Mary suggests that God is very willing to work through all sorts of people in all sorts of ways.
I guess the point is that we don’t need to know about Mary’s piety or devotion. We just need to know that she said yes to God. And that we too, regardless of our past mistakes and wrongdoing, can receive a word of delight and purpose from God. We too can say yes, even with fear and trembling and perplexity.
Perhaps one thing the Christmas story tells us is that God only works through ordinary people.
Learn more with Amy Julia:
- Advent devotional
- How to Slow Down at Christmastime
- When Christmas (and Life) Is Unexpectedly Disappointing
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