Parenthood is a (presumably lifelong) state of wishing and hoping, and what-ifs and wondering. It starts with pregnancy. What if something goes wrong? Let’s not tell anyone until we reach the “magic” three month mark. What sex will my baby be? Will I be a good parent? How much is labor going to hurt?
After the birth of my son, I quickly discovered that this state only becomes more urgent. How do I stop this child from crying? What am I supposed to be doing now? Am I doing all the things I need to do to ensure his developmental needs are properly met? Why is he still crying? (If you’ve had a reflux baby, you will understand why crying warrants a second mention!)
Who is he going to be when he grows up–not just his career, but his character? What does the future hold? Will he have a happy life? What if I mess up as a parent?
As he grows, there are always new things to contemplate. As I go through that crazy, joyful, sometimes worrying, often uncertain, something-new-every-day journey that is parenthood, there are always new questions and new challenges.
All parents wonder about their child’s future. But with a conception like no other, a birth surrounded by unique circumstances and prophetic glimpses, surely Mary’s contemplation of her son’s future was very different from any other expectant mother. Luke tells us that “Mary treasured up all these things (the events of the Nativity) and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).
The modern Christmas carol, “Mary, Did You Know?” speculates on Mary’s thoughts after Jesus’ birth:
Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy will one day walk on water?
Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know
that your Baby Boy has come to make you new?
This Child that you delivered will soon deliver you.
I rehearsed this recently with my acapella choir and one line in particular caught my attention, bringing me beyond the routine of practice and into a state of wonder: “…and when you kiss your little baby, you’ve kissed the face of God.”
What an ordinary, everyday thing–a mother planting a loving kiss on her baby’s face. How many millions of times a day does this happen around the world? But in this instance, there was something completely unique about it. Only Mary gave birth to the one who created the universe. I find that fact mind-blowingly difficult to grasp.
This led me to wonder what other things Mary may have pondered, hoped for, and even worried about. How might Mary’s own experience–as an unmarried, pregnant young woman in a cultural dichotomy of honor and shame–have shaped the questions she asked? With this in mind, I’ve added my own questions to those in the song. (Don’t try to sing along–I haven’t kept to the constraints of the tune.)
Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy, in whose face relatives will look for your chin or Joseph’s nose, is the creator from whom all humans are made?
Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy, the fruit of a pregnancy that local gossips considered a sinful stain on your character, will one day protect a woman from similar judgments? That he will turn the stones intended to kill a woman caught in adultery into tools to convict her accusers of their own sins?
Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy will lift the heads of countless women? That in opposition to the patriarchy of his culture, he will accept the touch of a menstruating woman, seek to protect the rights of women cast away in divorce, and reject service within the household as a woman’s sole or primary function?
Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy, whom you now nurse at your breast, is the Bread of Life, and that all who believe in him will never hunger or thirst again?
Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy, who will learn the Tanakh at the feet of the local rabbis with other boys, will open up the study of Scripture to women like yourself, encouraging them to learn at his feet as disciples?
Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy will not reveal his identity as Messiah to the male authorities of Israel, but will first announce this good news to a despised Samaritan woman?
Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy will inspire women over the course of two thousand years to exchange society’s restrictions for God’s calling?
Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy, whom you now wrap in swaddling clothes, will one day leave his folded grave clothes in an empty tomb?
Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy will choose as his witnesses, and the first to be sent out with the message of his resurrection, a group of “mere” women?
Mary, did you know that your own faithfulness to God’s calling will play a key role in bringing a savior into the world who will set women free?
During this Christmas season, may you too be lost in wonder at the arrival of a little baby who will grow to change the world for women and men in so many different ways.