Every Christmas since junior high has found me writing at least one poem about Mary. I remember feeling so proud of the one I penned in 7th grade and the joy that I felt at having my English teacher praise my simple metaphors. Mary is a favorite character in the story of faith (for good reason) and I love to sit and ponder who she was, what she might have looked like, and how she might have acted when she first met the savior of the world in her son.
As the years have gone on, my daydreams about Mary have gotten a bit more grounded, and I like it. I no longer picture her as a milky-skinned woman without a hair out of place as she glows and glances upward at angels, but rather as an olive-toned teenager laboring over a pile of musty hay. Mary was not perfect or holy, but a human who said "Yes" to God in faith and then went on to puke and sweat and bleed and look social suicide straight in the eye to make His will happen. Mary was earthy, and I would not have her any other way.
I heard a quote from Theologian Lucy Peppiatt on Lectio365 this week. It said:
"Mary is not simply a receptacle of the divine, housing him as it were. She supplies his humanity from her own body. Her blood forms him, her food nourishes him, her breasts feed him…Jesus is made of her, not just in her."
The prayer for the day went on to find a parallel between Mary's unique experience of carrying Jesus and our call to carry Him to the world.
I love all of this because it reminds us of the fact that Christmas is about the Incarnation. Jesus was not a little blob of light that was planted in Mary's belly before sliding out in perfect royal robes with much fanfare. Rather, He was a fetus who shared Mary's human DNA. He was attached to a placenta and expelled in a burst of guts and fed by leaky nipples. Mary was human, and, if we affirm the beliefs of the Church, she gave birth as a virgin to a baby that was both 100% God and 100% man (thank goodness I'm a theologian because math never came easily to me anyway).
Mary participated in the Gospel through the means of both faith and body, obedience and biology, servanthood and motherhood. May we never forget the messiness of it, because God stepping into the human mess is the definitive core of humanity's hope.
This Christmas Eve, I want to challenge us to remember that the Gospel is participatory. It calls us into the epic of salvation and, while that is an honor, it will also cause us to get dirty. We are not meant to stand aside and passively watch as ethereal happenings transpire. No, we are meant to take a cue from Mary, to follow in the footsteps of her son, to live a life that is flesh and blood and present and earthy and holy all at once.
As we remember the manger and all its massive implications, let us also remember the young girl whose viscera helped to bring about redemption. She said yes and, in all of her fallenness, brought about something great. Say yes to God this season and allow Him to use you. May your body, your worldly sojourn, also play a role in bringing about His good purposes this side of eternity.
Cross-Posted from "Reflections on Faith, Words, and The Holiness of Today"