We Need a Little More Mary

We Protestants don’t put as much emphasis on Mary as do our Catholic and Orthodox brothers and sisters. We don’t say the Hail Mary. We don’t pray to Mary as an intercessor.  In most Reformed Protestant churches, Mary gets trotted out at Christmastime and is packed away with the rest of the nativity scene until Advent rolls around again.

I think we need Mary front and center more often. Mary is often held up as the feminine ideal, and I wholeheartedly agree.  But not the blue-eyed, serene Mary so often depicted in works of art and in children’s Bibles. My Mary is bold and bodacious. I want to be more like that Mary—a fiercely faithful follower of God.

The story of Mary is the one of a powerless teenage girl living in occupied territory who is called upon to accept a life-changing and world-altering mission.  Imagine her less like the serene, docile girl we see in all the pictures and imagine her a little more like Katniss from the Hunger Games—a little wild eyed and ready for whatever life brings.

I mean, come on! This little nobody from nowheresville is called to bear the Savior of the World. The Savior of the World. And she says yes. No net, no safety school, no backup plan. Just yes.

And not only that, she launches into a song of protest and praise all about how God is going to scatter the proud and toss the mighty off their thrones and send the rich away empty handed. And she sang it out loud for anyone to hear—including any Romans who might have been within earshot.

It was the ancient equivalent of taking a knee during the National Anthem. It was protesting the empire and its values and offering an alternative. This was not a sweet lullaby about having a baby, this is a song proclaiming that God was about to turn the world upside down, and that Mary was going to have a hand in it.

It was and still is a dangerous song that challenges the status quo. If you look at Bible commentaries on this passage, almost every one will use the word “revolutionary” to describe Mary’s song. So, are you ready for a revolution? Can you really sing Mary’s song?

Are you willing to challenge the values of the empire that tell us that money and power win?   To  challenge systems that favor the rich over the poor? To pull those who live on the margins into the center of society. To champion the poor and the powerless and the lost and lonely?

And perhaps even more importantly, are you ready to believe the song you sing?  Mary’s song is about a God who is with us. A God who comes into our totally f’d-up world, where justice is sometimes hard to come by and the divide between the rich and poor is growing and the climate is changing and grace seems to be disappearing.  But our God comes.  To right the wrongs. To balance the scales. To keep promises.  It’s important that we really believe that, because people can tell when your heart is just not in the song you sing.

Mary’s heart was in her song. She was all in. We need a little more Mary in our lives. Not just at Christmas, but all year through. May all of us, men and women alike, be ready to sing Mary’s song when God calls us to do ordinary and extraordinary things. 

Rev. Anne Russ is an ordained pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA), currently based in New York City. Doubting Believer provides tools and encouragement for the rollercoaster ride of your faith journey. Follow me on Facebook , Instagram and YouTube. You can also follow on TikTok. Get emails to keep up with all that is happening.

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