Mark Lawry and Buddy Greene wrote a beautiful Christmas song which is often played during Advent & Christmas. Entitled, “Mary did you know?” the song leads to the final question, “Mary, did you know … the sleeping child you’re holding is the great I AM?”
I learned recently that many Catholics find the song a little controversial. I wanted to examine why this was the case.
“The song is typically Protestant in sensibility, without the Marian piety of Catholic hymnody and spirituality, emphasizing Mary’s ordinariness rather than her extra-ordinariness. Mary was both ordinary and extraordinary, as was her Son — but the song rubs many Catholics the wrong way less because of any particular line than the general feeling that it seems to be essentially asking, “Hey, Mary, did you know your Son wasn’t just some random kid?” On the most hostile reading, some have even accused the song of heresy, though that’s clearly a bridge too far.” (Steven D Greydanus, What did Mary Know and When did she know it? National Catholic Register)
I would like to suggest we take a step back and maybe examine if perhaps Catholics who feel strong negative feelings about this particular song because it implies that Mary’s knowledge is ordinary about her Son, may have possibly interpreted this song in the wrong way. I guess what I’m saying is I interpret it a littledifferently! I see it as a song acknowledging Mary’s humility in her knowledge!
It’s at the very least, the authors idea that Mary would be feeling humbled about the circumstances she would be undergoing on behalf of the world! What I’m trying to suggest is it’s possible, the author writing these words may have been posing a rhetorical analysis of Mary’s overwhelming role she played being the mother of the Savior of the world!
Why do I say this?
I read recently, in an interview with the author, Mark Lawry, a Christian comedian, singer & songwriter, said the following about his lyrics, “As I wrote the ‘speaking parts’ I began to think about Mary, during a conversation I had with my mother. I remember her saying ‘If anyone on earth knew certainly for sure Jesus was virgin born, Mary knew!’ That was such a profound statement to me. It made me imagine a conversation I would like to have with Mary where I could pose questions like:
“Mary did you know that your baby boy would someday walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would save our sons and daughters?
…When you kiss your baby boy, you kiss the face of God?
Mary did you know … the sleeping child you’re holding is the great I AM!”
Rhetorical or not, whatever he intended the lyrics to mean, I would like to tell Mr. Lowry that the answer to this list of questions is a resounding YES!!! Mary knew! The irony here is, I believe the Mr. Lowry knew as well. I say this because you only have to confirm this when you read about it in the Bible! Mr. Lowry is a Christian and familiar with the Bible.
Announcement of the Birth of Jesus. In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” And the angel said to her in reply, “The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God.” Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her. Luke 1: 26 – 38
Mary said “yes” to the Angel. She knew she would be carrying the Savior of the world in her womb. Her response was, “May it be done to me according to your word.” Imagine how much faith for a young girl who had “found favor with God” to be so strong in her resolve to go through with a pregnancy conceived by the Holy Spirit, knowing that this was going to be her greatest challenge in life. This would be like nothing anyone would ever do.
Mary gave the world such a gift. Maybe the criticism made by Catholics come from a concern that this song doesn’t show the holiness she had in her heart. OK! I get that. But sometimes when we look at something from a different point of view, as this song does, we can recognize how overwhelming it must have been for Mary to acknowledge she was carrying the Son of God – “The great I AM!”
Maybe if he would have just added a verse saying: “Mary did you know, the world is grateful for the gift of your Son – the great I AM!” Maybe then everyone would identify with this Christmas song!
Copyright 2017 Catherine Mendenhall-Baugh