On Sunday, like most Sundays, I led an interdenominational chapel service in the hospital where I work. On Christmas. For people watching from beds on Christmas morning. And I talked about Mary.
She delivered a baby, as women had done, she wrapped him up, as was appropriate, she put him in a safe place. And shepherds came telling stories of angels saying things just like she’d heard from the angel.
Mary, Luke records, carried and delivered a baby that looked like a baby. Angelic voices, human experiences.
No wonder Mary reflected on them.
No wonder we reflect on them.
We hear the proclamation of the birth of Jesus, of the arrival of a savior, as we stand in a hospital chapel, as we lay in hospital beds, as we sit with short visits or final visits.
There is the angelic word and the human experience.
And we wonder.
With all the tinsel of drummer boys and Santa kneeling at the manger, and the burden of living up to the delight, the picture of Mary going about caring for a baby, reflecting on what’s happened is like a squeeze of citrus in a heavy meal, like a tiny glimmer of candlelight in a dark room. A perfect blend of future hope and present ordinary.
Mary spent three decades reflecting on what the proclamations of angels meant.
- When Jesus disappeared to the temple.
- When Jesus was frustrated with her calling over the servants who ran out of wine.
- When Jesus ignored her requests to take care of himself.
- When she heard the rumors of people wanting to kill him,
- when she watched the people of Nazareth pushing him to the cliff.
- When Joseph died. When John was murdered.
Most of the people who knew Jesus, who watched him, who followed him or fought him didn’t know the angelic back story. He often pointed to the prophets, of course, to the historic words that pointed to him, but people didn’t understand.
Mary, on the other hand, had the angelic backstory and the human backstory.
During all this time, Mary held in her heart what the angels proclaimed, and the annoyance and pain of daily life, and the peculiar tension of being mother to the apparent and misunderstood Messiah.
We are not the first people in complicated surroundings reflecting on the meaning of the birth of Jesus.
His mom did, too.