The song alone is worth pondering today as we reflect on Advent. However, as I listened, the question kept begging an answer in my mind - Exactly what did Mary know? I think the question seemed even more looming this morning. Last night, Bay and I watched the old movie, Yentl, with Barbara Streisand. If you've not seen it, the story highlights a young Hebrew woman who longed to study, to increase in knowledge, to have her questions answered, but she lived in an era when "it was a man's job to do the thinking and the learning, and a woman's job to marry, to cook, and to have babies." For a woman to read and study the Torah was illegal. Yet, bless his heart, Yentl's father taught her to read, to study, to discuss, and, even argue the Holy Writings...until he died, and Yentl was left with nothing. So, she cut her hair, dressed like a young boy, and set out to a new community where she might enroll & live among the male population as a student, and satiate her greatest desire.
Mary lived in such a society, perhaps a bit worse than Yentl's. Life for women in Mary's world was not easy, nor free. Women were no more than property owned by a man. As in Yentl's world, what Mary DID KNOW was that she wasn't allowed to think, to have a voice. What Mary DID KNOW would have been caught, as others talked, but she was NEVER taught. What Mary DID KNOW was that there would, one day, come a Messiah, and all young girls, who lived to marry and have babies, hoped that they might be the blessed woman to birth that child. Their belief was this babe would grow to manhood and rescue Israel from Roman reign. What Mary DID KNOW was limited to what the men knew, and even their picture of the Christ-to-come was skewed. The men expected a victorious warrior, a ruler to sit on the throne of David - a King who would release them all from persecution. Perhaps Mary was looking forward to a throne, not a tomb; a castle, not a cross.
I know one thing - Mary didn't know Isaiah-the Prophet's words that it would be a virgin who would conceive, for her first question to the angel (after he settled her fears) was, "How can this be when I have not known a man?" If she was blind to that explicit truth, to what else was she blind? No one saw the Messiah as Isaiah painted Him in chapter 53: a suffering servant. So what did Mary know? All we know for certain is that Mary DID KNOW what the angel told her, and every word built one upon another until they crescendoed in her mind: I will be the Mother of the Christ. Advent is near!
Here is what Mary DID KNOW:
Savior of Sin
Ruler over Jacob's House
Son of the MOST HIGH GOD
Exceedingly Great in Importance & Authority
A Gift of Jehovah, Yahweh, to one day Reign Over David's Throne
At this season of Advent, I am particularly thankful for the opportunities I have to learn and to increase in knowledge, and with that knowledge to grow in grace and mercy. Advent's fulfillment opened a whole knew world of hope for me!