23 Days of Advent-Day 9 Mary Matters
Mary, the teenage virgin who becomes the mother of Jesus would find her own place in history and in the history of the church. Around the world today she is known as Saint Mary, Virgin Mary, and Blessed Virgin Mary. Even those of us who are not Catholic, recognize the special place that Mary had in the story of Jesus and the special place she has in the world today. I read something this morning that Mary has been the subject of more paintings, statues, poems and writings that any human being in history. I’m not about to question that. I must say, as a woman, I appreciate that fact that while God chose to earth as a man, he came here through a woman. And that woman was and is adored around the world.
The name, Mary itself, has some interesting facts and questions circling around it. Mary is of course an English translation for Maria or even Marian. We sing Ave Maria at Christmas and in areas of the Catholic Church, Marianism refers to those devoted to Mary. But here is something interesting from “Light of the World” (Amy-Jill Levin). When Matthew refers to Mary in the original Greek, the word he uses is Μαρίας which translates to Marias. It is easy to see how Marias gets to Maria or to Marian then to our “Mary”.
But Luke is a different story. Luke uses the word Μαριάμ and that is Mariam. Don’t let this minor addition of the final “m” pass you by. The name Mariam has history; it is a well-known name from the Old Testament. Mariam (or Miriam) is the sister of Moses. It was Mariam who “watched from a distance” as her brother Moses floated down the river in a basket. She watched to make sure he was safe with the Pharaoh’s daughter then stood up and offer her mother as a nurse to care for Moses. Mariam is a central figure in Exodus and gets top billing throughout the Old Testament. In Micah 6:4, note the listing as God speaks to the Israelites: “For I brought you up from the land of Egypt, and redeemed you from the house of slavery; and I sent before you Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.” That my friends, is top billing.
Is Luke connecting the young virgin of the Christmas story to this important woman in the Old Testament? Remember, Luke is writing to the Gentiles of the early church. Is he trying to link them back to their “adopted” heritage of Israel?
Today, are we being drawn back to our roots in the Old Testament? Luke is a great story teller. I know from personal experience, that with a story teller, details matter and there are often small things placed in the story. These small things can have big implications.
Mary is an important figure in the Christmas story. She brings an important baby into the world; she brings God into the world. Maybe the message of today is that she did not come to that point in her life in a vacuum. Like all of us, she stands of the shoulders of those who came before her. Mary stands on the shoulders of Mariam and all of the powerful women who were part of God’s story on earth.
Grace and Peace at Advent