Gentle Mary, meek and mild. We like to sing about it every Christmas. We look at pictures of meek and retiring Mary. She always looks to pure, so innocent.
I call bullshit.
Where on earth did we get the idea that a woman who sings about God scattering the proud, who calls on God to bring down the powerful from their thrones and lift up the oppressed, who demands that God fill the hungry with good things and send the rich away with empty hands – where on earth did we get the idea that this woman is anything but a strong, feisty, courageous woman with agency?
When I read the gospel accounts of Mary the mother of Jesus, I do not see some mild-mannered girl quietly acquiescing to God’s demand of her to carry his son.
Rather I read about a woman who joins a long line of people throughout Scriptures and throughout history who question God. What if her “How can this be?” in Luke’s story of the Annunciation is less about doubt and more about wrestling with what God is asking of her? And what if in wrestling with it, she decides to agree to the vocation of being the mother of Christ? “Here am I.”
Just as Moses said “But suppose they do not believe me… O my Lord, I have never been eloquent” but went with God’s words.
Just as Isaiah said “Woe is me! I am a man of unclean lips” and then said “Here am I; send me.” And God sent him.
Just as Jeremiah said, “Ah, Lord God! Truly I do not know how to speak!” but then went and prophesied the message God gave him.
Just as Esther hesitated because of the strong possibility of death, but then spoke out at great risk and saved the Jewish people.
Just as “ordinary” folks like you and I wrestle with the tasks – big and small – and vocations that God sets before us; wondering if we are really being called, debating whether we actually want to do that, and eventually finding that God really is with us and we want to say yes.
Mary’s agency is at the heart of this story, and it is this strong and courageous woman who answered God’s call and brought God into the world.
With thanks to my Young Clergy Women International (YCWI) sisters for some inspiration, and who, through our conversations on Mary and consent, provided more links for thought: