What was Mary really like?



“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. –Luke 1:38

And Mary said:

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” –Luke 1:46-47

He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. –Luke 2:5-7


I am fascinated by the biblical character of Mary.

I can’t help but wonder what she was really like, compared to what our traditions and assumptions have made her out to be.

When I look at nativity scenes, Mary is calm and demure, almost unrelatable in her seeming other-worldliness. But when I look behind the words of the biblical account? I see strength and bravery and fortitude way beyond her age. (Which, by the way, is also never reflected well in our pictures. Have you ever scene Mary look like the young adolescent girl she probably was?)

Mary was a woman who accepted the words of the angel, likely knowing that as a result, her community would ostracize her. She was a woman in the midst of a patriarchal culture who penned a song about how God was with her and others who were oppressed. She was a woman who gave birth, without an epidural, in less than ideal conditions, in a place that was not her home.

On Sunday, my friend Matt wondered if Mary might be compared to Katniss Everdeen, a young girl brave enough to accept a difficult challenge in order to help her people. (Yup, that comparison was really made in a church service.)

In the midst of a season when I get so focused on myself, on my schedule, on my to do list, on the stress of all that is December, I wonder how I could emulate Mary. Willing. Sacrificial. Brave.


Spirit, give us the strength you gave to Mary. Provide us with the fortitude to do the hard things when they are what are required. Give us the vision to see the oppressed, the hurting, the downtrodden, and to stand with them and for them. Give us willing hearts to set aside our own visions of what we should do this month and pick up Yours. Amen.


Breath of Heaven – Maywood Band

“In a world as cold as stone, must I walk this path alone?

Be with me now.”


Noticing Immanuel: a series for Advent. Each day starts with noticing: a picture of an everyday Christmas moment. That picture leads to a verse, a meditation, a prayer, and a song. My hope is that when we see those Christmas moments a second time, they will strike us differently. That we might feel the presence of Immanuel this Christmas season, whether we are sitting in quiet or moving in chaos.

Wonder: How Do You Wrap Up the Son of God?

When I looked down at his scrunched up little face, it was so surreal.  

That moment, when the nurses place a newborn baby in a mother’s arms, is the stuff of television finales and movies scenes designed to make us cry. There is an overflow of excitement and an instant gushing of love and kisses.


But the truth is, all mamas react differently to the experience. That moment when we finally get to look into the eyes of the little being that has shared out bodies for months causes a variety of feelings to wash over the women who have borne them.


For me, it was a kind out of body experience. I knew it was my baby, but my brain couldn’t fully wrap itself around the truth of all that had just transpired. Mainly, I was bone tired, with the foggy brain of exhaustion that caused the world to feel one step ahead of what I could process.


I wanted to hold him, but I also really, really wanted to put him down and get some sleep. Please.


I was glad for the nurses who could wrap him tight in a swaddle. Blankets that could help him feel safe within the new wide-open feeling of being out in the world, away from the protection of my body.


Then I think of that moment we celebrate at Christmas.


She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them. – Luke 2:7


Mary gave birth next to animals, away from her family, after a long and arduous journey. When she finally reached that moment, and was able to gaze into the eyes of Jesus, what was it like for her? Was there a fog of exhaustion laying heavy on Mary as she tried to process her experience?


Mary looked down at a baby who had shared her body for 9 months, but before that couldn’t even be contained by the Cosmos.


Surreal to say the least.


How do you wrap up the baby who was the firstborn over all creation? How do you wrap up a moment that had been building not just for months, but for thousands of years?


The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. – John 1:14


Jesus wasn’t just being wrapped in cloths for the first time, He was being wrapped in skin for the first time. The Word who gave life to all took His first breaths within the world He created. The eyes that had seen eternal possibilities for the first time looked at His surroundings from within the boundaries time and space.

The quiet baby lying in the bed of hay cannot be contained in our nativity scenes and simple visualizing of that first Christmas. When Jesus was born, He exploded everything about the world as we had known it.



God wrapped in skin. Jesus wrapped in cloths. This is a moment that cannot be wrapped up within our minds and hearts. It is surreal. It is beautiful. It is holy.


It is Christmas.


Wonder: Rediscover the Christmas Story is an Advent series designed to help us pause and reflect on how amazing the stories of Jesus’ birth really are. To break through the cluttered busyness of the season and touch our hearts with the awe of what God has done. Let’s make this a season of wonder and worship, marveling together at our great God.