Getting to Know Mary

One of my favorite parts of Advent is that we get to think about the holy audacity of this season -- the teenage mother of God, the angel, the surprise, the grace, the invitation -- I love the miracle and the mystery woven into the mundaneness of Mary's world.

"The Lord is with you," "Do not be afraid," "You will conceive," "The Holy Spirit will come upon you," "For nothing will be impossible with God."

These words of unimaginable gift and burden, blessing and possibility are cast out to Mary in the midst of her daily routines. I wonder what she was doing when Gabriel came to her house. Was she cleaning or cooking, daydreaming of Joseph or getting tips from her mother about the inevitable wedding night?

Every year, I am fascinated anew by Mary. There is so much I wonder about her. Was she as sweet and innocent as our cultural imagination likes to portray her? I'm not satisfied with a naive, angelic and docile Mary, a saccharine mother of God who slips behind the stage after the first chapter of Luke.

What if she was saucy and short-tempered, and Gabriel just happened to catch her on a good day? What if she was dreading her wedding day because she was actually in love with someone else, and not the carpenter whom her parents thought was such a good match? What if she had been praying for a life more interesting than what she thought lay ahead for her? It's all very unlikely, I know, but I like to play with the possibilities, to imagine that there was much more to Mary than met the eye, so much more than we, or even her own community of people, could probably imagine.

Truthfully, I like to think Mary was a bit mischievous and defiant in a playful and strong-willed kind of way, one of those girls of whom her elders always said, "That Mary, whoever marries her will have his hands full!" (Little did they know ? )

Mary, Daring and Bold?

Maybe it's because there is a part of me that suspects you would have to be a bit unpredictable and unruly to partner with God on birthing miracles and tending to Christ. You would have to be someone daring and bold to say, "Let it be with me according to your word," when you knew full well that your "Yes" was bound to cause indiscernible upheaval in the world as you knew it.

And yet, I am thinking about what Scripture does tell me about the mother of God. She pondered things in her heart. She asked questions of angels. She held her final response until she'd heard the facts, the whole story. She sang songs about justice and freedom. She sent the son of God on errands, instructing him to do what he was good at: Perform miracles, and start by changing some water into wine. So far, the dots are not connecting to create an image of meekness.

What I do see is a woman, a girl actually, open to finding miracle and mystery in the ordinary corners of her life, more surprised at the words of angels than by the fact messengers of God who breezed through her home, more concerned with how she was going to get pregnant than by the fact she was going to bear the son of God.

So it leaves me wondering: What kind of daily routine and practices would we need to cultivate in our own lives to have the openness of Mary? How does one shape a spirit and hone a heart to expect miracles and mystery to invade one's life? How does one become mischievous and unruly enough to tend to Christ and to bear good news? Or is the question more along the lines of just learning how to cultivate a childlike approach of welcoming the child of God?

Enuma Okoro currently writes about faith and christianity. She holds a masters from Duke University Divinity School.

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