Mary, Christmas, and Merry Christmas
I am fascinated by the drama around saying or not saying, “Merry Christmas.” Who knew it would become a line in the sand or a platform plank. Obviously, it is a touchy subject.
While pondering Christmas scriptures this week, I wondered, “WWMD…What would Mary Do?”
Luke 1 heralds the virgin Mary as a “favored one.” Gabriel, the angel, says God abides with her. Then, when Gabriel leaves, Mary says, “Here I am, the servant of the Lord.”
In both the church’s scriptures and in the church’s stories, Mary is the epitome of humility. She is modest, we assume. Unpretentious. The opposite of arrogant. Above all else, a “servant of the Lord.”
As a White American Christian, I rather enjoy my built-in privileged life. I am so used to it, I don’t even notice it. It is as natural and as invisible as breath. I will say what I want, to whom I want. Amen.
But, Mary would not. She counterweights my haughty assumptions. She would not manipulate an encounter at a Kroger’s cash register willfully asserting anything. She was not born on third base with culture on her side.
If she weighed in on this issue, I wouldn’t be surprised if she said, “Be careful with Merry Christmas. It can come across as unchristian.”
That was a shocking thought. But it got worse as I researched the Pilgrims. The founding fathers of our American faith. The spiritual mothers of the Mayflower Compact. These religious, pious, Christian Pilgrims did not wish anyone a “Merry Christmas.” Admittedly, they weren’t merry in general; but, they believed the celebration of Christmas was one of the commercialized sins of the Anglican Church from whom they separated. Governor William Bradford insisted that Christmas Day 1621 be entirely a work day in Plymouth! (Though he did allow a few complainers to take some of the day off, “until they were better informed.”)
All this to say, I myself will be saying Merry Christmas frequently. I will say it in the Narthex and say it in the sanctuary. I will say it to every NDBC member I meet. I will say it to everyone who first says it to me.
And I will say it to strangers…but with strangers, I will rarely use words.
Have you heard that quotation from an early church father: “Peach the Gospel. Preach the Gospel. Preach the Gospel. And if necessary, use words.”
I will try to do that this season. While thinking, Merry Christmas, I will try to be gracious with a smile. I will try to be respectful. I will try not to impose or be rude or presumptive. I will try to be kind; maybe even loving.
And I will think of Mother Mary who did not use her “favored” status to leverage any situation. Her lofty goal was to be lowly servant of the Lord.
WWMD? She’d say, “Be humble…especially during the Holy Seasons…and the message will come across.”