While the star of every Christmas pageant is the Christ child, the Best Supporting Actress nod goes to Mary. The baby, whether a doll or an unpredictable infant, is just so hard to see from way in back.
But Mary — serene, smiling, radiant Mary — is the focal point. No matter if the wise men scrounge up camels or put extra shine on their box of myrrh.
And yet, so much of Mary’s experience is overlooked in the Gospels’ four attempts at introducing the world to Jesus. Told by men well after the fact, how much of Mary’s pregnancy was lost to the sands of time and male-dominated society?
Jesus is an adult when he appears in Mark 1:9 and John 1:29. Matthew almost completely overlooks Mary, covering two angel visits to Joseph, going on at length about Magi. She’s treated like property, making note only of her virginity. Only Luke seems to care about the woman who played a central role in the dramatic bookends of Christ’s life.
A female Gospel writer surely would have made some note about enduring what was at least a three-day journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem while heavy with child. Or maybe the stress of a suspiciously implausible virgin pregnancy before marriage? Only one passing reference to a manger in Luke 2:7 tells us the birth took place in a setting less than ideal, even by ancient standards.
Then, and now, we only get part of the story when men are the scribes. But what a profound part Luke tells as we hear Mary’s prophetic voice in her song recorded in Luke 1:46-55. Women deserve a similar voice today.
“He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble” (Luke 1:52) might have been proclaimed at the Mennonite Church USA Women Doing Theology conference Nov. 8-10 at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary.
“My spirit rejoices in God my savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant” (Luke 1:47-48a) may have been on the lips of women certified in October to be Mennonite Women USA and Canada Sister Care presenters.
Like Mary, women can do theology in varied contexts in North America and many other lands. Some as pastors, some in other roles.
The angel Gabriel told Mary she was highly favored by the Lord and not to be afraid. Those messages are still needed today.
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