Being the Perfect Mary

Christmas Eve is quite the production at our church… literally. Mary rides in on a donkey. There are sheep on stage as the Christmas Story is recounted, and the wise men arrive and approach the platform on real camels. There is a brass quintet and a choir. And at the end, every person present lights their candle from a neighbor’s flame (the original flame is from Mary and Joseph’s stable lantern), as the sanctuary lights dim and we become a sea of faces lit by candlelight. It’s a beautiful, breathtaking tradition, and it’s the highlight of my Christmas season.

This year, we’ve been asked to play the holy family. When I received the invitation, I couldn’t make up my mind. “I’m not sure I’m going to make a good Mary,” I thought. After all, I often spend the majority of the service with tears in my eyes, and there’s no telling if we can keep T (our three-month-old girl) happy for the whole service. I wrote my response: “Thanks for the offer, but we’ll pass.” But I couldn’t hit Send.

I just couldn’t believe a hormonal, imperfect, disabled young mother would be an appropriate choice for the part of Mary.

But maybe I am.

Mary was a human woman, and a first time mom. Mary had just endured the mess and pain that is unmedicated childbirth. Mary had mood swings. Mary was nervous and feared this new baby would never let her sleep again. I’m sure she wept, for the beautiful boy in her arms and in uncertainty at the future. I’m sure she was shaking as they fled Herod’s baby-killing soldiers. I’m sure she was not happy about having to lay her newborn in a germy animal trough. Any woman would feel these things, and to make her anything more than a human woman is to make her grace and humility unattainable.

So I’ll ride the donkey, which may or may not behave as it should. I’ll look at all the glowing faces and I may very well cry. T might fuss and I might not know what to do. Perfect. Beautiful. Holy.

Let it humble us to know that God chose normal human beings, human beings like you and me, to bring forth His plan. He laid His own life in their hands. What might he do with us?


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