Treasure Valley Prays

The Nativity of Our Lord

Mary and Jesus

“My Soul Magnifies the Lord”

“My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior; Because He has regarded the lowliness of His handmaid; For behold, henceforth all generations shall call me blessed; Because He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name!” Luke 1:46

“But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:19

It is Christmas Day. My family, as we have for years, gathered last night within our “pod” with masks and appropriate distancing to celebrate Christmas Eve. Each nuclear family worshiped with their own congregation’s Christmas Eve services—one, at a parking lot service and another gathered around the computer to join other worshipers on YouTube. This was a different year. We had to rework the traditions that we have held for our whole lives to deal with the effects of the pandemic. It’s changed so many of our daily habits, our ways to relating and our thinking about our place in history. Today is a day when we are settled in for peaceful reflection.

The reorganizing of things has come with some surprises that have reshaped accepted and long held traditions. One of those has been a particular song. Nearly 35 years ago, I was introduced to the Christmas song, “Mary, did You Know?” It was sung by a troupe of four young men out of California, named Rescue. I’ve listened to their version of the song for years, enjoying their rich modulated tones, and four-part harmonies…until this year when I learned of the controversy that surrounded it. I became aware that the premise of the song and its theological assumptions were less than biblical, i.e., asking 17 questions of Mary if she knew the implications of her being the mother of Jesus and his role as savior of all creation. Those who differ with this premise insist that Mary did know and that the sign of that knowledge can be found in Mary’s own words of praise to God found in the Magnificat in the first chapter of Luke.

Holly Sheer, writing in 2016 about the original version of “Mary, Did you Know”, urges us to consider the question of “what Mary knew and what she agreed to” and,” the fact that Mary herself sings an entire song about her pregnancy.” Sheer goes on the write:

Yes, Mary knew she was having God’s Son. Luke 1:30-33, 35 answers this clearly: “And the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’ And the angel answered her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.’” Yes, Mary knew that her baby boy was God himself. Even easier to answer is whether Mary consented to bear the Son of God. Her response on the subject was: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38).

History has given us a far more beautiful and accurate song for Christmas about Mary, one that confesses the truth about her, God’s plan, and that tiny baby. That song is the one Mary herself sang, and one that church around the world still regularly sings. It is captured in total by Luke 1:47-55. Based on her own words, an alternate version of “Mary, Did You Know?” has been written (words below) …one that is far more apropos to the biblical understanding of Mary’s acceptance of her role as the mother of Jesus. I leave it to you to see, hear and sign, if you wish. The Adventus University Orchestra plays a nice instrumental version of the tune below.

Mary kept all these things—and pondered them in her whole being. Her words were clearly a song calling for a more just world, one of caution to those who have so much, and a word of salvation for those who suffer. During these early hours of this Christmas—in a time when many things are being rearranged in our lives, let us keep Mary’s words and ponder them in our hearts.

A blessed Christmas to you and yours!

Alternative Words to “Mary, Did You Know”

Mary did you know,
that your ancient words
would still leap off our pages?
Mary did you know,
that your spirit song
would echo through the ages?

Did you know that your holy cry
would be subversive word,
that the tyrants would be trembling
when they know your truth is heard?

Mary did you know,
that your lullaby
would stir your own Child’s passion?
Mary did you know,
that your song inspires
the work of liberation?

Did you know that your Jubilee
is hope within the heart
of all who dream of justice,
who yearn for it to start?

The truth will teach, the drum will sound, healing for the pain
The poor will rise, the rich will fall. Hope will live again

Mary did you know,
that we hear your voice
for the healing of the nations?
Mary did you know,
your unsettling cry
can help renew creation?

Do you know, that we need your faith,
the confidence of you,
May the God that you believe in,
be so true.

Lyrics by Jennifer Henry (inspired by the popular song of the same name). Concerning copyright, it may be possible to claim these new lyrics as a “parody” of the original, permitted under USA copyright law

Picture of Kent Schaufelberger

Kent Schaufelberger

Retired Chaplain, ACPE Certified Educator

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