This is a Christmas song I hadn't heard before, at least so that I paid attention to it. When I finally did notice it, I couldn't help meditating on this. Did Mary think through the mind-boggling idea that the baby, who she held in her arms and kissed, was God?
I think she must have. After all, the baby had appeared in the first place in a miraculous way, conceived through the spirit of God and not physically through a man*. But did she know what that would mean, what Jesus-as-God would look like? No. I don't think anyone guessed, before it happened, of the sacrificial death that Jesus would have to undergo in order to satisfy the redemption criteria for God. Deep theological waters, here. A friend of mine (Anne Bundy) once explained that Jesus acted as the bridegroom in the Jewish marriage. (Anne, forgive me if I get this wrong -- and you are so eloquent, I'd love for you to explain this here if you want!). In this system, there was first a betrothal ceremony in which the groom contracted with the bride's father for a price to pay for the bride, and this contract was sealed with the drinking of the cup. The "Last Supper" (the Seder meal, that took place the night before Jesus' execution):
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (Matthew 26: 26-29).
The betrothal was legally binding: the man was now considered married to the woman, although she would live with her father's family while the groom paid the bridal price, then went to prepare the dwelling where they would live.
"My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am." (John 14:2-3).
The bridegroom disappeared for about a year while he prepared their new dwelling place. Finally, with no warning, the bridegroom would reappear, usually at night, to take his bride to live with him. The wedding celebration would last for about a week, in which the new union was recognized, and the marriage was consummated.
These traditions of Jewish weddings and sacrificial system are instructive because they are shadows, or representations, of "how things work" in God's economy.
*For those who are skeptical that, for example, a Loving God could create a baby or would sacrifice His own son, well, I didn't make this stuff up -- this is a simplification of theological thought that is detailed and self-consistent. Furthermore, as I've mentioned many times before, I came to my faith as a skeptic through studying the historic circumstances surrounding the death of Jesus. I am convinced that Jesus rose from the dead --> what he said was true --> and through a sequence, am convinced that what the Bible says is reliable. You can read through my faith journey HERE.
Mary Did You Know?
lyrics by Mark Lowry
music by Buddy Greene
Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you've delivered, will soon deliver you.
Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
And when you kiss your little baby, you have kissed the face of God.
The blind will see, the deaf will hear and the dead will live again.
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, the praises of the lamb.
Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven's perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you're holding is the great I am.
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