25 Songs of Christmas: Dec 8 – Breath of Heaven
I am not Catholic. Doesn’t seem like the type of thing someone like me should have to declare. And yet as I’ve been listening to/watching videos of some of my favorite Christmas songs, I have seen this point come up in the comment section (i.e. crazytown) time and time again. Apparently there is a line of thinking in some Christian traditions that anyone who really likes songs about Mary or from Mary’s point of view is worshiping the Virgin Mother and only Catholics could like her. Apparently, aside from making me Catholic, my affinity for Mary also makes me an idolater and a polytheist.
So much blasphemy in a three-minute Christmas song. Go figure. But here’s the thing: I’m Presbyterian. (Or lesbyterian if you ask me on the right day). Guess I have to find another song to share today.
No, it’s okay to be a protestant, or nondenominational, or even <gasp> nonChristian and still like the story of Mary. Personally, I like her lot, not because I think of her as a deity, but rather because I don’t think of her as a deity. I think of her as being a normal, everyday woman, the girl-next-door sort of woman, the kind of woman who might get frazzled over the housework or the cooking, a woman who probably had really mundane interests and some pretty big fears. Being a poor, young, single woman in a religious community under foreign occupation 2,000 years ago was a pretty tall order. I imagine she was probably just trying to keep her head down and take her of her own business when all of a sudden there’s an angel in her face and a savior in her womb. Can you imagine?
The answer to that question is “No.” None of us can imagine what it would be like..
And yet, the idea of an ordinary woman in an already bad position being called on by God to stand up and do something amazing for the world isn’t that foreign. When you take away the time and the specifics, the heart of Mary’s story really is something we can all look up to, something we can all identify with.
No, I don’t know what her life was like, but I know how it feels to be busy when a friend calls for help. I don’t know what it would be like to have an angel appear and tell me God’s plan. I do, however, know how it feels to be stretched thin financially when the food bank puts out a notice saying they are in dire need. I can’t even conceive of being asked to help offer salvation to the world, but I have been in situations where I’m already tired and overwhelmed and frustrated when a crisis breaks.
I know what it’s like to hear the call of God in my own, too-busy life. We all do.
Like Mary in today’s song, I have been frightened by the load I bear. I have wondered if I must walk the path alone. I have worried I might not live up to the task before me. I have asked if maybe someone better, stronger, or more put together should have had my place. And still I try to offer all that I am to the mercy of God’s plans. I have prayed for strength, guidance, and that breath of Heaven to hold me together.
It’s not a perfect plan. I am never going to be perfect in my execution of God’s will. This world is never going to be perfect, but neither was Mary’s world. If it had been, there would’ve been no need for Christmas. A perfect world would have no need for ordinary people to bear extraordinary burdens. Only broken worlds need a woman like Mary. Broken worlds need ordinary people to answer holy calls.
No, I don’t see Mary as God to be worshiped. I see her as woman to be identified with. And to me that makes her all the easier to celebrate.