Author Kathleen Norris makes the wry observation that Protestants have a limited attention span for Mary, the mother of Jesus. She writes: “We unpack her from the box at Christmas time and then pack her back up again, with our other decorations, after the holidays are over.”
Without compromising our Protestants Reformation principles, can we understand and honor Mary in ways that are scripturally based and evangelically motivated? I believe we can. Now of course you have on one side of the spectrum a devotion and worship to Mary that goes well beyond the bounds of Scripture and Protestants are right to be concerned about those issues, especially when such extreme devotion to Mary goes unchecked at the popular level. But in reacting to these excesses, have Protestants gone to the other extreme? Must nearly everything we say about Mary be couched in the language of dissent and disbelief?
The fact is, evangelicals often say less about Mary than the New Testament does. She is seldom mentioned in our sermons or worship services, except for her honorary appearance in the annual Christmas pageant or nativity scene. In 1925, A. T. Robertson, a noted Southern Baptist New Testament scholar, published a book titled The Mother of Jesus. He wrote, “I have felt for many years that Mary, the mother of Jesus, has not had fair treatment from either Protestants or Catholics.”
“If Roman Catholics have been guilty of deifying Mary,” Robertson said, Protestants are just as guilty to subject her to “cold neglect.” “We have been afraid to honor and esteem Mary for her full worth, he said, lest we be accused of leanings and sympathy for the Roman Church.” Robertson is right.
But if we would only take the time to really look at the historical person of Mary with the same interest and consideration as we would with St. Paul or St. John, we would see in Mary a humble obedient servant that readily submits herself to God in order for His will to be done and not her own. We may in fact (dare I say!) find a role model in her for our lives.
We have heard the story so many times over the years, it sometimes fails to astonish us. The Annunciation. An angel appearing to Mary to tell her that she will be the mother of the Messiah!
For centuries, artists have pictured this famous story of Mary at the moment she hears the words of Gabriel. This scene has been painted in a variety of ways. Some have her surrounded by angels, covered in red velvet or standing amid tapestries and silver candles. Others have Mary in more simple settings. These paintings can have a lot of power, and we can study the symbolism and love the artist who painted them, as we find ourselves drawn deeper into the mystery of The Annunciation. But the mystery is not just found in the fact of God breaking into history – but also in the way in which He did it.
God might have chosen many ways in which to take human form and become known to us. But by entering our world through the womb of Mary – God sent a very clear message and made known where his priorities truly lie! The Birth of Christ is God’s demonstrating that there is no bias towards respectability, wealth, prestige, a certain race, pedigree or level of education—indeed all of things which man might value seem to have been deliberately avoided.
Imagine if you can an unmarried peasant girl from a no-nothing town praising God for honoring her with a child – and not just any child – but the long expected Savior of man, would any of us listen? The following clip is the classic Ave Maria.