Mary, did you know?

There is a song I hear around this time of year that gives a different perspective of Christmas to those who hear it. Mary, Did You Know? was originally recorded and performed by Michael English, and has been popularized by other artists such as Wynona Judd and Kenny Rogers as a duet and Clay Aiken.

The song speaks to Mary, the Mother of God, asking her if, when she held her baby in her arms, she knew who He really was.

Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy would one day walk on water?

Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy would save our sons and daughters?

The more I hear this song, the more it makes me think about the role of Mary during Advent, and perhaps moreso now that I am a mother myself.

Many mothers say that if they knew all the challenges and heartache that comes with motherhood, they would still do it because the love and joy you feel outweighs all that. When you have a child, you give your whole heart to that child, whether the child is your first, second, fifth, or twelfth (or even twentieth!). Your heart grows larger with each child, and there is an incredible connection between mother and child that can only be fully understood by a mother. There is something about motherhood that transcends all other experiences on this earth. And Mary felt that about the Christ Child just as I do for my precious Wyatt and Lilly.

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 the storm with His hand?

Did you know that your Baby Boy has walked where angels trod?

When you kiss your little Baby you kissed the face of God.

Mary knew her pregnancy was different. Gabriel told her, “’And 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 the Son of the Most High […] the holy Child shall be called the Son of God’” (Luke 1:31-32, 35 NASB)

While Gabriel explained to this young woman (well, likely a girl by today’s standards) that her Baby would be the Messiah, I can’t help but think she probably didn’t fully understand. Because, if I’m being honest, even I didn’t understand a lot of what my doctor told me at my prenatal appointments. (Maybe I shouldn’t have admitted that….)

During Advent, Mary was reaching the end of her pregnancy. She was uncomfortable, probably in pain, and going on a long journey with her new husband. She probably knew her Baby would be born while she was away from home, away from the women in her family who would have helped with the delivery, and it was probably scary for her. And I can imagine it was her faith and trust in God that kept her going day after day.

And Mary said, “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” (Luke 1:38a ASV)

Mary loved God, and was willing immediately to serve Him in any way He asked. So when Gabriel told her she was pregnant and was carrying Christ, she didn’t hesitate when she accepted the honor and responsibility that came with it. She may not have known what was in store for her, but she knew she was doing it for God, and that was enough.

Though pregnancy helps prepare a woman (physically and mentally) for motherhood, everything still changes when you see your baby for the first time. A new baby’s perfect face and tiny body is unlike anything else. The bond between mother and child that begins to form at that moment is for a lifetime, regardless of what happens in either of their lives. Mothers know their children better than anyone except the Lord.

So it could be that when Mary held her Baby for the first time, held Jesus in her arms and kissed His face, she knew. It could be that when she saw the face of God for herself, manifested in the perfect innocence of a newborn baby, she knew.

Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy is Lord of all creation?

Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy would one day rule the nations?

Did you know that your Baby Boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?

The sleeping Child you’re holding is the Great I Am.

It is, in part, because of Mary that I love Christmas as much as I do. Even before I came into full communion with the Church I was drawn to the Blessed Mother. I knew I wanted to be a wife and mother for a long time before it happened, and Mary was an example of Christian motherhood and wifehood that moved me to grow in my faith every day.

As we celebrate Advent in anticipation of Christmas and the celebration of the birth of our Lord, I will spend more time talking to the Blessed Mother, learning more about her. And as I meditate on what she endured during her pregnancy, delivery, and motherhood, I will be strengthened in my own journey as a mother. As I think about the first time she held her Baby, our Lord, I will catch my own son in a hug before he can squirm away and kiss my daughter to make her smile. Because, just as Mary accepted her calling from God as the Mother of God, I welcome my calling as a Catholic wife and mother. And during this Advent and Christmas, especially, I will pray to God and say, Behold, the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.

[POSTSCRIPT] It was brought to my attention in a comment on this post that the song “Mary, Did You Know?” denies the Immaculate Conception in the line that says, “Did you know that your Baby Boy has come to make you new? / This Child that you delivered will soon deliver you.” It is not my intention to deny the Immaculate Conception at all. I would like to note that the song used in this post is to speak to Mary’s mindset as a new mother, and as the mother of Christ. It is not a Catholic song, so it does not strictly adhere to Catholic teachings. I apologize for any offense that may have come from this, and those lines have been deleted from the post. Thank you, and God bless.

12 comments
  • BirgitJDecember 3, 2011 - 10:09 am

    “She may not have known what was in store for her, but she knew she was doing it for God, and that was enough.”

    This line really spoke to me and exemplifies what we must do throughout our lives…put our full trust in God, no matter what life hands us. That is a lesson I have been learning for most of my life and I hope that I am learning it with grace. Thank you for a wonderful Advent post!ReplyCancel

  • EllenDecember 3, 2011 - 11:23 am

    Hmmmmm. I SO hate to be picky about this, since the song is beautiful, and so many folks love it (and so few “Christian” songs-i.e.-not sung or written by a Catholic Christian-even mention Mary, even at Christmas), but, from a Catholic perspective, part of it is heretical. The line “Mary did you know that your baby Boy has come to make you new; this child you delivered would “soon” deliver you,” denies the Immaculate Conception. Mary had already been “delivered” and “made new”. She didn’t have to wait until Jesus died and rose!

    Sorry! Otherwise, I loved the post (I’ve loved all your posts).ReplyCancel

  • LauraDecember 3, 2011 - 12:39 pm

    I heard this song for the first time a couple nights ago. There was a Country music Christmas concert on TV and the group Rascal Flats sang the song.

    Your thoughts on the words for the song are enlightening and do make me think differently about my role as a wife and mother.

    Thanks for sharing your insight!
    God Bless!ReplyCancel

  • CharlaDecember 3, 2011 - 1:46 pm

    Sweet reminder of Mary’s significant role in our salvation. I too look to Mary as the perfect example of motherhood. Thanks, Nicole!ReplyCancel

  • LaineDecember 3, 2011 - 5:41 pm

    Nicole, your post brought tears to my eyes. Sweetly and beautifully written 🙂ReplyCancel

  • MaryDecember 4, 2011 - 10:24 am

    I wish I could like this song more than I do. It sounds so beautiful from a musical standpoint and it is a good jumping-off point to think about Mary’s role as Jesus’ mother. I think it’s true that Mary didn’t fully understand a lot of things, and more importantly, it’s true that Mary was willing to do the task that God assigned her no matter what suffering it entailed. But, aside form the Immaculate Conception issue, the problem I have with the song is that, being a faithful Jewish woman, Mary would have known all the prophecies about the Savior and thus definitely would have known pretty much everything the song asks about. Anyway, this was a good post regardless. Sorry to be picky. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • dymphnaDecember 4, 2011 - 1:11 pm

    Ever since I read the lyrics I’ve disliked this song. Plus it completely ignores the Annunciation. Gabriel was pretty specific in his explanation.ReplyCancel

  • NicoleDecember 4, 2011 - 1:24 pm

    I understand people’s objections to the lyrics of the song, and I apologize for that. But, as I said in my postscript, the focus of this post is to look at Mary’s emotional role in becoming a mother and looking to her as an example of motherhood for others.

    It IS NOT a Catholic song. I know that. However, there are elements of the song that spoke to me as a mother, and that’s what I was speaking to.

    And I understand that Mary would have known the prophesies and what was being asked of her, but that doesn’t mean she fully understood it. When I was pregnant, I knew what was happening to my body, but until I experienced it, I didn’t fully understand it. And that’s the aspect of the song I’m speaking to.

    Thank you for your comments bringing attention to the theological concerns in this song. But again, it’s not my intent to go against Catholic teaching. I’m simply reflecting on a song and how it has impacted my life and my vocation.ReplyCancel

  • MIchelleDecember 4, 2011 - 5:50 pm

    Wonderful article Nicole! I just love this song. I don’t think that we have to worry about the lyric regarding Christ “delivering” Mary. While we believe she was conceived without sin his birth and death still had to happen to open heaven for all of us, including our Blessed Mother. I love this song because it shows us that each and every one of us who have become mothers can look at our tiny baby and wonder how God is going to work through him/her. In the end she was a mother, just as we are, wondering how God was going to use her son for His glory.ReplyCancel

  • MartinaDecember 4, 2011 - 6:42 pm

    Thank you so much for addressing the concern about the lyrics, Nicole. 🙂 I think that speaks volumes about how much you care about upholding the Truths of the Faith, even when we want to appreciate music {or anything else, really!} that is not specifically Catholic. We can pull the parts that speak to our Faith and examine those parts that do not uphold the Faith in an effort to educate others who may not be aware. I like to think of these kinds of things as teachable moments. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Sarah LeBlancDecember 5, 2011 - 8:32 pm

    Hello!

    Who painted the first picture of Mary that you posted? Just curious! 🙂ReplyCancel

  • JIM DOHERTYDecember 13, 2015 - 12:22 am

    While the composer and lyricist of this carol are not Catholic, I don’t think the line about “soon deliver you” is incompatible with the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception.

    Mary was delivered from sin in that she was conceived without sin. But was this not in anticipation of her Son’s sacrifice on the cross?

    While her deliverance had already been completed years before she held the Baby in her arms, the marker was still due, and Christ would pay that off for his Mother, as for all of us, at the Crucifixion.

    That said, the fact that the lyrics are might be interpreted as denying the Immaculate Conception suggests that perhaps the song should not be used at Christmas Masses or other liturgical celebrations.

    That certainly doesn’t mean Catholics can’t enjoy the song, or that thay can’t admire the obvious profound Faith of the songwriters, for all that their Faith is grounded in a protestant theology.ReplyCancel