This year, the Old Trafford Community Choir is singing, amongst other things, “Jesus Child” by John Rutter, of which par of the chorus is:
“Worship the Jesus child and praise his mother mild.”
Another of this year’s songs is “Come on down to Bethlehem” by John Parker / Joel Raney, which has the line:
“Sweet Mary gave birth to God’s own son.”
Typically, in the community that I grew up in and am still a member of, Mary is not venerated, worshipped, praised or adored in any way.
I expect a large amount of this is due to the Victorian origins of the community and the desperation (especially of that time but the shackles hold long and fast) to be different from the main-stream church, especially the Catholics.
It stems from the general subjugation of women and (often subconscious) misogyny that pervaded the Victorian era, and still in many ways influences the practices and structure of the churches within the community.
This means that Mary is constantly either ignored or reduced to ‘just another ordinary woman’. Yes, in many ways, Mary was just another ordinary woman like many other ordinary women through theges and currently, but what actually does the bible say about Mary?
Luke 1 holds the most complete story of Mary finding out she was going to be the mother of the Son of God.
‘The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”‘
‘The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.”‘
‘Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!”‘
Elizabeth is prophesying, filled with the Holy Spirit (God is filling her as God IS Spirit – John 4:24 See here and listen here for some expansion of my thoughts) and her words are:
“Blessed are you among women” (NIV)
“God has blessed you above all women” (NLT)
“God has blessed you more than any other woman!” (CEV)
Now, although, by looking at the original Greek, it is possible see that the NIV is technically, literally most accurate out of those three, the depth of feeling in the words is not conveyed any where near as much as in the other versions.
Elizabeth is full of joy and though she is herself incredibly joyful that she is also bearing a miraculous child (due to her age – Luke 1:18), she would also have possibly been a very tiny bit envious because every Jewish girl knew from an early age that it would be an immense privilege and honour to be the one chosen to bear the messiah, because they all knew the prophecy of Isaiah:
‘Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.’
Mary understood the honour, Elizabeth understood the honour, the angel says “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you”, so why do we demote Mary – the mother of God’s only son, who was sent to save the world – to just an ordinary woman?
I’m not suggesting that we go down the ‘hail Mary mother of God’ route, but I am suggesting that we give Mary a bit more respect, honour and a little more veneration.
Maybe then we would start treating our sisters in Christ with a little more respect and honour and let them use the skills they have within the community for God’s glory and the benefit of others.
Grace & Peace
Follow me on twitter (here).