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Allison Althoff
Allison Althoff
Natalie Lederhouse
Natalie Lederhouse

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December 6, 2010

Singing of Mother Mary

In our efforts to differentiate ourselves from unbiblical approaches to Mary, have we swung the pendulum too far the other direction?

I used to feel an inner struggle whenever I’d hum or sing the famous Beatles’ song “Let It Be.” I loved the tune, and I really liked the general message of the song . . . except for that darn, pesky line about “mother Mary” coming and urging the songwriter (Paul McCartney) to simply “let it be.” The idea of Mary showing up to give the Beatles advice seemed like just one more wrong, off-the-rocker example of Marian mythology in our culture. As an evangelical, I always felt it was my duty to shrug off and fastidiously avoid anything mystical, magical, mythical, or even remotely special regarding Mary.

So it was a great relief the other day when my husband (a Beatles scholar/fanatic) informed me that Paul wasn’t talking about Mary the mother of Jesus—he was writing about a dream he had of his own mother (named Mary). She’d died of cancer when Paul was a teenager; as the song describes, Paul dreamed of his mother coming to him and speaking words of peace.

Phew. Now I can sing that song (one of my favorites) in good conscience!

Many of us Protestants experience a similar discomfort with all things Marian. This subtle aversion to Mary (except, of course, in December) seems to be bred into us. Though our beliefs affirm how blessed she was to be chosen by God, in our practice we hardly mention her for 11 months of the year.

To a certain degree, there’s good reason for this impulse. Within some segments of Catholicism, Marian devotion appears heretical and even borders on the bizarre. There are the countless claims of Marian apparitions—some even believe in and make pilgrimages to see her image on water-stained drywall, a pancake, or a potato chip (no joke!). Other Catholics put such a heavy focus on their devotion to Mary, the “Queen of Heaven,” that Jesus seems to take a far distant second place. (It should be noted that these degrees of obsession with Mary fall well outside the bounds of official Catholic teaching.)

Yet in our efforts to differentiate ourselves from these unbiblical approaches to Mary, we’ve swung the pendulum too far the other direction. Lest people think we worship Mary, we hardly talk about her. We study, read about, and discuss biblical heroes like Hannah, Esther, Ruth, or Mary (of “Mary and Martha” fame), but rarely give our attention to the one woman, out of all the women on the planet throughout all of human history, whom God chose to bear and raise his son, Jesus.

If any woman in Scripture deserves our attention, she does!

Thankfully, one time a year (at Christmas), we do draw our attention to Mary. In our hearts, we journey with her to Bethlehem. We wait by the manger. We, too, ponder the miracle and treasure it in our hearts.

This Advent I find myself floored by Mary’s example—inspired, convicted, compelled ever closer to God. I plan to hold Mary’s story close to my heart . . . the other 11 months of the year!

How do you think of Mary? How does her story inspire or convict you? What role does she play as a hero of faith in your life?

Related Tags: Advent, Birth of Christ, Christmas, faith, Virgin Mary

Comments

Mary has always been a person that I have admired for her willingness to trust God and His plan for her in spite of the position that plan would place her in. For a young girl to have a baby out of wedlock in those days was a death sentence unless someone stepped in to save her, as Joseph did by God's direction. Whenever I feel oppressed by what is happening around or to me I can think of Mary and know that if I will trust my God and Father then He will step in for me and save me. God gave Mary so many things to hold precious in her heart even though others of that day thought they were all some of the worse things that could be.

Thank you for your article. It makes me think again of the wonderful plan that our God has for each and every one of us.

I think this article was written with a lack of understanding for the Catholic Church's approach of Mary. Being a Catholic, I see a devotion to her as anything but "unbiblical". As the Mother of God Himself, I think a lack of devotion to her is disrespectful to her son. Catholics do not worship Mary, but rather revere her as Elizabeth called her: “blessed among women”. Of all the women in the world, she is the most blessed because she carried GOD in her womb! When Jesus gave John his mother at the foot of the cross, he gave her to all of us. Because the crucifixion was an event that saved EVERYONE past, present and future, anything that Jesus allowed to happen during this time happened for everyone past, present and future, and that includes the gift of his mother. And what’s the big problem with Marian apparitions? So what if we see an image of Mary on a concrete wall under a highway? If it brings people closer to Christ, than I don’t see what the big deal is. Instead of calling them “bizarre”, why not be thankful that people even know who she is to recognize the image on a potato chip? Everyone knows who Mary is because of the person she gave birth to. We cannot follow Jesus without thinking of the woman who bore him, and we cannot look at Mary without thinking of Jesus. It works both ways. I admit that there are Catholics out there who place Mary before Jesus, but don’t assume that we all do it. That’s a wrong way to honor her and him (thank you for stating that this is not Catholic Church teaching). I find it odd that non-Catholic Christians only think about her during Christmas time. If you were to carry God in the womb, wouldn’t people be flocking to you just to be able to touch your clothes, as the woman in the Bible did with Jesus?

It is so true! We speak of and talk about all the other womwn in the Bible but her, thank for putting that into perspective for me. We need to keep in the loop as well as all the other amazing women in the Bible.

She was the most obedient woman in the world...in all of history...she's got my vote! Never had a problem with her, catholics or anyone who mentioned her...I am a rare protestant! And thankfully so! :)

Hands up anyone who knows Moses' mother's name? Anyone, anyone? Well, apart from Jesus, he is after all the second most influential person in Christian theology, dare I say, even in the world. Moses is discussed in the Bible more times, both in OT and NT, than any other prophet. Jesus expounds about him, St Paul ponders his faith, Moses' books span the Jewish, Christian, and Islamic scriptures, etc etc.

So why don't we know that Jochebed was his mother? In fact, even her name contains some of the letters of God's name, YHWH, because it means "the honour of Jehovah".

Anyone know who St Paul's mother was? Or Abraham's? Why not? Those two men also are bedrock men of our faith!

No, when we study and marvel at the great men of God, we don't automatically go back to their mothers, important as they were in carrying and raising these godly saints. We don't even pray to them or through them. We study their books, we admire their love of God and we strive to be like them.

Maybe if the Bible had written more about Mary, Protestants would feel more comfortable to honour and study her. We take our cues entirely from the Word and if little was written about a person, then our attention and due respect is correspondingly little. Since an entire book was written about Esther, and numerous chapters chronicle the lives of Hannah and Ruth, among others, we feel that God must therefore desire us to learn from them. His mother, on the other hand, gets relatively low coverage.

It is sad that Mother Mary who was called Blessed among all women has now become a source of division. She is indeed now unfairly shunned by many who love her Son.

Being a fomer Catholic and devotee of the Catholic Mary (not the biblical Mary), I think I have a right to say that the Catholic above has a misunderstanding of the Biblical Mary. She was and is NOT the mother of God. She was and is the mother of the Jesus who had both a divine and human nature. She was the mother of his human nature. In Matthew 12:48 when people ask Jesus where His mother and brothers are, He answers from His Divine perspective 'Who are my mother and brothers but they who do the will of the Father."

We just had a sermon on Mary today. My Pastor said Mary put her own role into perspective in Luke 1:35. She said she was a bondservant of the Lord. She realized she was a vessel which God used to bring about his promise to the world. Even in the Magnificat Luke 1:48-56, Mary only says that all generations will call her blessed, not pray or worship her. She was a truly humble and faithful young woman, not a god or god like entity. You do not need to go through Mary to get to Jesus, you just need to speak directly to Him.
Mary should be remembered for her faith and actions, not put on a pedestal and worshiped.

How can you see an image of someone who we don't know what she looked like? The images that are plastered everywhere in/on churches, Bibles, statues, icons, etc are the rendition of an artist centuries later and copied over and over so that they all look the same, just like all the art objects we see of Christ. So you are just seeing the pooling of lights and shadows and/or chemicals on a an inanimate object and forming them together. Just because they look like a beautiful Italian woman doesn't mean they are images of Mary. I honestly find all the images, pictures, icons, statues, etc idolotrous. Mary may have been blessed among women, but she was still a flesh and blood woman who was NOT sinless. Christ is sinless, He is God who walked the earth in a human shell and felt the sting of death, but had power to overcome it. He is the eraser of our sins, not Mary. He is the healer of our bodies as his body was shredded for us, NOT Mary. I asked a devout Catholic friend once what was the raging reverence of Mary all about. She told me that Mary had never suffered death, that Mary ascended into heaven without suffering knowing death. First I'd ever heard that. And honestly, it shows how little Catholics are taught about the whole Bible's content (this a statement from several older former German Catholics that I met in a military wives' Protestant Bible study group) since Elijah and Enoch of the old testment also were drawn directly to heaven without enduring death.
I don't see Mary deserving any more revernce than Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, or King David. a;; were chosen by God for a special mission because their faith had found favour with God, but all were imperfect and none are God Himself.

The words "pray for us" doesn't stop you from reaching Jesus directly. Personally I have a special relationship with the mother of the Christ & I'm sure that GOD doesn't mind because HE honoured her first. Whatever respect Mary gets is because of Jesus & by extension, to the glory of GOD. She is a handmade of the LORD & Catholics know that. If someone decides they want to fall to the ground & love her some more, that their own concern. What I can't understand is why people find it difficult to understand that the vessel wherein GOD made man; Jesus was laid cannot have been an ordinary vessel. If Elijah could be taken up into heaven, what makes you think that vessel will experience corruption. Think!

Many Christians find it easier to adore their pastor's wife or mother than they ever will the Mother of GOD; Jesus Christ. Yes, we call her the Mother of GOD because Jesus is GOD made man.

Why do protestants or pentecostals believe they can get messages from GOD, but do not respect messages from the Catholic church of Jesus, Mary or one of the saints. They are very much around us & besides, Catholic church by virtue of celibacy of priests & nuns, has the highest number of people commited 100% to their calling & to prayer; people who have no family ties or such distractions. Is it then not possible that these monks or nuns being so committed will stand a better chance of recieving messages & revelations from GOD?

Its meaningless to get married, trust me, if an individual loves you, he or she is going to be with you for long. Otherwise you'll just get a piece of divorcing paper.

The Protestant reformers Luther and Zwingli both accepted the Apostolic teaching/tradition that Mary was conceived without sin. If she wasn't the Immaculate Conception then she was born with sin. But, that would make Mary a sinner and incapable of being as Gabriel said, "full of Grace." Moreover, no Angel's in Biblical history had ever bestowed honor to a human being, except Mary.

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