Little Miss Mary, Perhaps not so Saintly?

At Christmas time, second only to fame of baby Jesus, is that of the virgin Mary. In fact, in many instances, she’s not even the runner up, but the main character celebrated in the Nativity. As the story goes, the perfect, serene, pious, humble virgin drew God’s attention. Because of her near perfection, He chose her to bear His one and only begotten son. But where do we get this idea?

As I read through Luke 2 and Matthew 1 this year, a couple things struck me as off kilter from my usual Christmas perceptions. First is Mary. What do we know of her prior to the angel’s visit announcing her conception of Jesus. Absolutely nothing! Imagine what her life must have been like. What if Mary wasn’t gentle? What if Mary hadn’t been fully submissive to her parents? What if Mary once slipped an apple in her pocket as she passed a fruit stand in the market? What if Mary felt guilty about a few little white lies? What if?

Previous people had found favor with God:

Noah, who ended up passed out, drunk and naked in his tent had found favor with God. (Gen. 6:8)

Abraham who lied because he didn’t trust God to care for him, found favor with God. (Gen. 18:3)

Moses, a murderer with a fierce temper found favor in the eyes of God. (Ex. 33:12)

So what of Mary? Perhaps she wasn’t so saintly. I don’t mean to disparage her, but I do think that Christendom must be wary, lest we idolize a mere human, on whom God decided to bestow favor. Did you catch that?

God decided to bestow favor. God’s favor came, not in response to anything Mary had done. I wonder if that’s why God didn’t tell us all about Mary’s life prior to become Jesus’ mother. It wasn’t important to God that Mary be perfect. He was sending Jesus to be the sacrifice for all of Mary’s failures – past, present and future. None of her little white lies, temper tantrums, disobedience or failures would ever be able to count against her.

Mary found favor because Jesus found favor.

Consider this New Year’s resolution: I will cease to work to earn God’s favor. I will stop tallying my good and balancing it against my bad. I will stop groveling before the throne of God. I will instead boldly yet struck by awe, revel in God’s favor because of Jesus.

In His IMAGination

I fear that I am going to veer a little off topic here. I’m still considering biblical, informed imagination, but, I’m stuck there. Mr. Card’s book, Luke, the Gospel of Amazement , continues through the book of Luke, almost chapter by chapter. He takes a segment, divides it into major themes and gives us the information to fuel our imagination. In the introduction, Card says that he is not going to explain to us how to read imaginatively, so I am taking what I learn, the information I glean and following his lead. Not surprisingly, given the unsearchable depths of God’s word, I haven’t made it past chapter two.

I want pose some thoughts I have about imagination:

1. Our imagination is a direct consequence of being made in God’s image. Think of it, eternal God had never before seen grass, animals, rainbows or seas. In seven days His creativity and imagination formed all that we see. And God continues on a daily basis to imagine new finger prints that have never been birthed before. Scientists are routinely discovering new species.  Every single morning He brushes a new sunrise across the sky and beds the stars.

2. It is interesting that when Zechariah exited the temple, mute, no one poked him and tried to force him to speak. No one rolled their eyes and whispered to their neighbor, “The old man must have been dreaming.” What has happened to our sense of wonder and our ability to accept what we cannot understand?

3. Imagination is essential to belief. Imagination might be the ability to believe the amazing – the wondrous – the things we wonder about. That’s why kids are so much more adept at it than adults. That might be why Jesus said that heaven requires the faith of a little child.

4. Did God come to Mary, still young, because her imagination was still ripe and her mind could still stretch to conceive that which wasn’t “normal?”

5. Maybe we don’t listen attentively and walk by the Spirit because we can’t imagine that God would speak to us. Abraham didn’t try to convince himself that the instructions to sacrifice Isaac were the result an errant imagination.

6. Can you imagine eternity? When I was little, my sisters and I used to describe our efforts to comprehend eternity as though just as we grasped the tendrils of it, something would snap shut, or hit us in the head.

Don’t try to read the Bible without allowing for the truth that seems inconceivable. God will never be contained by our systems, explanations, physical laws or moral codes. The juxtaposition of grace and wrath, justice and mercy, Christ’s death and eternal life – can’t be explained. Revel in the glory of God’s amazing imagination!