At the parish where I grew up, Mary was always played in the Christmas pageant by the girl who was a high school senior and was most active in the church. I worked my way up the pageant chain-of-command over the years (such as it was–girls didn’t get to play shepherds or Magi), topping out as the narrator my junior year in high school, eagerly awaiting my moment as Mary the following year.
And then the mother of another girl in my class offered to run the pageant, so she got to play Mary. I was the narrator. Again.
I was crushed. My father was baffled. “But the narrator leads the whole pageant. Mary just sits there.”
Even with my upbringing in a very low-church Protestant Episcopal church, I knew that Mary does not just sit there.
Mary is the God-bearer, the mother of Jesus, the one God chose to give birth to the Savior of the World. Mary is the one who embodies God’s casting down the mighty and raising up the lowly, singing her heart out with the Good News of God’s impending justice. Mary risks everything–her reputation, her future, and her life–in service to her Lord. And Mary “ponders these things in her heart.” She is a contemplative, a mystic, one who follows the curious path before her from Bethlehem to Egypt to Nazareth to Golgotha.
It took 16 years, but I did finally get to play Mary. When I was in New York, the Church of the Epiphany’s practice was to have the couple who most recently had a child play the Holy Family (there were some slightly unorthodox years when those families had twins and we had two baby Jesuses in our pageant). After Nathan’s birth, I got to dress up in blue, hold my baby and “just sit there” surrounded by angels, sheep, a camel, and the Magi.
But I knew it was so much more.
I invite you to sit with Mary this Christmas. Sit and marvel at her life, her faith, her courage, and the abundant blessings she bestows upon so many.
Blessings to all who say “yes” to God’s call in their lives.
Blessings to all who proclaim boldly God’s favor on the hungry, the lowly, and the oppressed.
Blessings to all who set off to faraway lands to protect their children.
Blessings to all who ponder the mystery of the Incarnation.
Blessings to all whose hearts are pierced with grief by the unjust killing of their children.
Blessings to all who are guided by hope in the resurrection and the redemption of the whole world through the love of God.