“If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.” – C. S. Lewis
A beautiful song causes controversy
Did you know that there appears to be a debate over the Christmas song, “Mary Did You Know.” I happened to run across “Yes, Mary Knew: How the question behind the recently controversial Christmas song stirs us to worship.” at Christianity Today by Joan Clarkson. I hope to have some time this year to discuss Mary, the mother of Jesus, especially when it comes to the gender divide/debate within Christendom.
I placed the Pentatonix take on this song at the end of the post. According to Wikipedia:
“Mary, Did You Know?” is a Christmas song with lyrics written by Mark Lowry and music written by Buddy Greene. It was originally recorded by Christian recording artist Michael English on his self-titled debut solo album in 1991 (English and Lowry were both members of the Gaither Vocal Band at the time). It reached No. 6 on CCM Magazine’s AC Chart. Lowry would record the song several times himself, most notably with the Gaither Vocal Band on their 1998 Christmas album Still the Greatest Story Ever Told.
The song has since gone on to become a modern Christmas classic, being recorded by many artists over the years across multiple genres.
Here are the lyrics as posted at Let’s Sing It.
Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new? T
his child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you.
Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God.
The blind will see, the deaf will hear and the dead will live again.
The lame will leap, the sums will speak, the praises of the lamb.
Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you’re holding is the great I am.
According to CT, some object to the premise behind “Did Mary know?”
…”the biblical account of Christ’s conception and birth shouldn’t need to ask if Mary knew because the Bible plainly tells us she did.” Many others similarly argue that to predicate an entire song on this question diminishes the pivotal nature of Mary’s role in God’s salvation plan, reducing her to a sweet but ultimately clueless new mother
What is the Protestant view of Mary?
For many years, Protestant Christians have largely emphasized Mary’s youth and downplayed her divine appointment, often out of concern over Catholic veneration of the mother of God. Yet Scripture clearly presents to us a remarkable depiction of Mary in her special role as God-bearer and prophetic hymn writer.
How did Mary “know” and what did she know?
According to Luke 1:26-56 (NIV Bible Gateway)
The Birth of Jesus Foretold
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[a] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.
Mary Visits Elizabeth
39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea,40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women,and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
46 And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”
56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.
Clarkson believes the question of the song, *Mark Did You Know,* is a rhetorical question, not a factual question.
The question “Mary, did you know?” is not a factual one but a rhetorical one. It opens space for contemplation, curiosity, and wonder. The song invites us to peer over Mary’s shoulder as she rocks the Christ child to sleep, to witness the vulnerability of God, to meditate on the vastness of heaven contained in tiny fingers grasping for the comfort of his mother’s hand.
As with many good pieces of art, rather than merely instructing us in doctrinal truths, the song invites us into mystery and worship.
Far from diminishing Mary, it invites to look to her as we attempt to understand the mystery of the Incarnation.
Jesus taught about His future to his disciples and we can speculate that He also taught His mother and his brothers and sisters. However, we hear the stories about Jesus’ disciples every Easter. Peter denied Him. Judas betrayed Him. The other disciples hid out. John and Mary came to the Crucifixion. However, did they really understand it or did they merely know-kind of like students memorizing the photosynthesis chart without really understanding it?
It was not until the Resurrection that the pieces came together for those who followed Him. Then came the gift of the Holy Spirit which changed the weak and confused disciples into those who would change the world.
I believe Mary knew what she was told but did not fully understand it.
I have proof from Scripture. I was surprised that no one brought this up in the article because it sums up the dichotomy or being told something, understanding it or incorporating knowledge.
Jesus’ family came to get Him at one point, apparently believing Jesus was out of His mind. (v. 21) Mary (v. 31) came along with his brothers.
In fact, it might appear (at least it did to me) that the family’s expressions of concern may have encouraged the teachers of the law to say that Jesus was possessed by Beelzebul. (v. 22)
Jesus did not run out to comfort His family in this regard. In fact, he appeared to reject the term *family* as a biological one. (v. 35)
Jesus Accused by His Family and by Teachers of the Law
20 Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. 21 When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”
22 And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.”
23 So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables:“How can Satan drive out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26 And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. 27 In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house. 28 Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.”
30 He said this because they were saying, “He has an impure spirit.”
31 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”
33 “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.
34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
In some respects, Mary was like others of her day. Perhaps, like His disciples, she hoped He would overthrow the Romans who had oppressed Israel. Read the words of the angel and think about it. Did Mary think Jesus was going to be like David-only greater?
He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
Mary was given the Holy Spirit but it does not appear that the Spirit was an indwelling Spirit in Mary, per se, but the One who overshadowed her so she would conceive. If Jesus was a holy Embryo, is this different than an indwelling Spirit? Do I truly get this? No-it is terribly confusing even though I believe it.
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[a] the Son of God.
Recently someone commented at TWW that he did not think the Trinity made sense. I remember laughing out loud. Of course the Trinity doesn’t make sense. There is nothing in this world that is like it. We try all sort of ways to explain it (The Egg: shell, yolk, white) but there is no egg in the universes who can make galaxies, black holes, multi universes. How can we fully understand the word “eternal” since we are merely mortal? We exist in time. God exists in time and outside of time. In fact, He is the inventor of time. And then He becomes a Baby?
I wonder if Mary was afraid she would drop him? When she breastfed Him, did she wonder about the complexity of that intimacy? Did she say her prayers with Jesus playing on a blanket? Did He watch her when she did? It appears that Joseph may have died before the Mark 3 encounter. He certainly was not around at the Crucifixion. Did Mary wonder why God took Jospeh from her? Jesus appeared to get that, asking John to care for His mother after the Crucifixion.
(Aside: One of my pastors asked the kids in confirmation to come up with bumper stickers that Mary and Joseph could put on their car. “Your kid may be on the honor role but our kid walks on water” was one that made me laugh.)
In the end, I believe that this song demonstrates an understanding that none of us really understands what Mary knew and apprehended. But one thing is certain. As He was on the Cross, He saved some of His final words to make sure Mary was cared for in the future. He asked John to do that. Interestingly, John was the only Apostle who died of natural causes. John was known as the disciple who loved Jesus and Mary, as Jesus’ mother, was the mother who loved Jesus. Sounds like a match made in heaven!