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Mary, did you know?

by Morag Barker

How are you doing as we approach Christmas this year? Have you made plans? Cancelled plans? Do you feel expectant and joyful, anxious and despondent or somewhere in between?

There is no doubt that for many of us Christmas 2020, just like much of this year, is going to feel very different. We might not make the well-worn journey to be with our loved ones, or be able to freely open up our homes to those around us. It feels difficult to make plans when life continues to be so restricted and uncertain; when there is loss and sickness and challenging circumstances to deal with. How are you coping? What do you do or where do you go in the ‘not-knowing’?

Perhaps you are familiar with the Christmas song, ‘Mary, Did You Know?’ I have been listening to a beautiful version on YouTube by the group Pentatonix and it got me thinking that Mary probably knew very little detail about what her future held and how that very first Christmas over 2000 years would look. Despite her faith, there must have been times when Mary felt anxious and perplexed, she was only human after all. I’m not sure travelling on a donkey to Bethlehem whilst heavily pregnant would have been in her birthing plan, or a manger in a stable the crib she would have been hoping for and yet she remained obedient. So, what did Mary know and is there anything that we can learn from her to help us through our own uncertain times?

It is clear from Mary’s response both to Gabriel and in her famous song of praise (Luke 1:46-55) that she knew the scriptures and in turn knew who God was. Because of this she was able to trust God to fulfil his promises even without knowing all of the details. Mary also knew who she was in God, ‘I am the Lord’s servant, and I am willing to accept whatever he wants’ (Luke 1:38). With her heart full and her mind racing, Mary also knew where to go – that trusted person, Elizabeth with whom she could be vulnerable and honest with, someone whose life was also orientated towards trusting and obeying God and who would prove to be a source of confirmation and encouragement. And Mary knew the art of quiet reflection and meditation, piecing the words of God together (written and spoken) along with her experiences, however unexpected they were.

‘All who heard the Shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary quietly treasured these things in her heart and thought about them often’ (Luke 2:18-19).

I would like to be a little bit more like Mary this Christmas and in the year to come, to learn from her in all of the above. I would like, daily, to have my perspective renewed, by keeping focused on the things I do know.

‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life’ (John 3:16).

May the truth of those words bring us peace, joy and hope as we treasure them in our hearts.

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