Christmas stories

Being Mary

Picture of MaryAnd all the generations shall call me blessed.

Why is that so? Because the story of a young woman, who peered out from behind the closed shutters of her father’s house, who carried the heavy water jar back from the well, who kneaded dough and baked bread on hot stones, has become the story of the one who opened her heart so the world might receive its hope. Who gave her body so that joy might be born from her. Who calculated the price that love demands and paid it – all of it.

The Angel said to me, ‘hail thou favoured one,’ and those who call me blessed know that every person who brings life into the world shares in my blessing. Every child who puts a wild flower into a mothers hand, every boy who stammers the prayers over the Sabbath bread for the first time, every girl who carefully lights the holy lamps under her mothers watchful eye, they are all the bearers of a blessing. Those who feed the poor, or heal the sick, or pray in the night – they are, each one, birthing a blessing. Everyone who cradling a little baby, looks into its face and recognises the soft, small bundle as a miracle, as living proof of the promise ‘God is with us’ they share in the blessing. It is, in part at least, a common blessing. We have all glimpsed Angels in the sky at night.

But the generations who call me blessed do so not only because they mark in me their wonder at the way we all birth love into the world. They tell my story, glad that it reflects their own stories, but in their hearts they also say ‘let it not be my story. Let it not be for me how it was for Mary. Let her be the favoured one – not me!’ As they celebrate my visitation they hope to escape their own! We all want a mighty change, the day of God’s appearing. Peace on earth. But we don’t want the terror of wings, the days of sickness, the exhaustion, the pain and the awful cost. The baby is so small and it cannot be kept safe. And a sword shall pierce your heart also.

Perhaps I did not want to see the dear, sad face of Joseph, pale because of his God ridden dreams? Maybe I did not wish my baby to be haphazardly delivered in the chaos of a crowed town where soldiers patrolled the streets and spies controlled the synagogues? It might have been that I called out for my mother? Would have preferred a visit from midwives rather than shepherds? Chosen custom, kindness and ceremony above the ecstasy of Angels? As I stood in a darkened room that was suddenly alight with the flames of God did I remember what it was like to be a little girl who has seen the walls of her world collapse around her?

Perhaps, maybe, might.

But I was not a child or even a girl calling for her mother. I was not an innocent or a fool who did not know the scriptures. Those who God calls upon to bear love into the world are always branded by its fire. I knew this. But I must tell you – the Angel was beautiful. And the stars were so bright. And the hopes of my brothers fighting in the hills, and the dreams of my sisters waiting at the well, and the longings of the people of the town, the priests in the temples, the soldiers in the streets and of every waiting soul that there has ever been, they all rose up within me and I said Yes. Be it unto me according to your word.

And all the generations will call me blessed.

(Contributed by Professor Heather Walton, Glasgow University)


  • 56 years ago