Saturday, December 23, 2017

Mary Knew (& Me Too)

Do you know the song, “Mary Did You Know,” an updated version of the story of the mother of Jesus? The lyrics are a series of rhetorical questions. It does not take long to look at the texts of Christmas to recognize that Mary knew.

We cannot exactly call “Mary Did You Know” a classic carol, written in 1991 by Mark Lowry and later popularized on Christian radio. But when it comes to the story of the first Christmas, we get a more reliable narrative from a centuries-old Bible reading than we do from a decades-old hit song. 

Not only did Mary know, we know that Mary knew. Even Mark Lowry, when he wrote his song, he knew that Mary knew. But because the lyrics to this stunning song are what we know as “rhetorical questions,” we should give Lowry some leeway with his poetic license. 

But there is another important reason that contemporary hearers of the Christmas stories need to be reminded today that Mary knew. This reason links up with a movement that has been called “Me Too,” which is about women standing up for themselves and naming the shameful abuse they have encountered in the work world. It is also, we could hope, about men being both repentant and accountable. 

Clearly, even in the original Christmas story, there were naysayers who might say: the whole Christmas story and Christianity itself are fake news because, some people, they do not trust women and girls, not girls like Mary. But Mary knew. 

There is another reason to connect Mary Knew with Me Too. Because some powerful men recently held up Mary, a very young girl when God chose her and she chose God, they brought this Bible miracle into broad daylight but out of context, they did all this to justify the clearly sinful actions of older men who harm the young women and girls of our present world. 

The workplaces of our world, especially the church and the school, these need to be safe and protected places for children and young people to grow in faith and in knowledge, for girls and boys to discover themselves in trust and freedom from fear, no exception and no tolerance for abuse. That people of all ages might fear even the sacred profession of teachers and preachers, as well as all other employers and co-workers, in this manner, this is wrong. No matter your politics or your theology, this is not right or left but right or wrong. Mary Knew and Me Too. 

(Listen to the audio of the longer sermon version here.)