I would love to think that Mary was as happy as Olivia, dressed in her blue e-bay outfit, belting out the songs.
We grinned like proverbial Cheshire cats at our daughter… a little surprised, to be honest, at her volume, at her sheer joy, at how comfortable she was with performing.
We grinned because her friend Samuel was her equally loud and joyful partner, Joseph.
We grinned long after it was over and watched the video back a few too many times.
I would love to think it was all this kind of joyful 2014 years ago, that Mary sat and stood and danced beside her baby, comfortable in her own skin, head held high.
2 years ago when I was heavily pregnant at Christmas I used to rest my hands on my bump and say, a little cheekily, “I feel like Mary”. Which I did, in some ways. But in other ways, obviously, didn’t.
Mary didn’t have a pink Mamas and Papas party dress (or a blue e-bay costume), she didn’t have the nursery ready or a hospital bag to pack. She didn’t have disposable knickers or nursing pads or tea-tree oil for the bath. There had been no Family Planning. “And the stable was not clean/And the cobblestones were cold/And little Mary full of grace/With the tears upon her face/Had no mother’s hand to hold.” [Andrew Peterson]
There is something great and celebratory about pre-schoolers singing these stories that have been passed down for generations. There’s a lot of room for that in my heart. But there is also room for the knowledge I have as a mother, that adds to the script being narrated from the front. I listen, too, to that part of me which knows that while there was joy, Mary was also uncomfortable and bleeding, tired and scared about the future.
I know what it’s like to feel all those things, even as my imagination struggles to appreciate their depth in Mary’s situation… even as my imagination also struggles to appreciate their depth for women today facing pregnancy, birth and child-rearing in difficult situations.
I’m glad that God shares our humanity through Jesus. I’m glad for Mary, too. I’m glad my daughter can dress up as her and sing parts of her story. I’m glad Olivia calls her Mary Christmas. I’m glad Mary has trumped Elsa for a few weeks.
And I am glad I can relate to her and wonder and marvel at the hard, messy parts of her story. That the narrative of joy and of hope took place in this fragile context… with a woman perhaps struggling to receive her visitors.
I have always loved the verse “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” It appeals to the introvert in me. It reminds me, too, of all the unspoken parts of the narrative we read aloud in our Churches at Christmas. It reminds me that this is a story we need to treasure up and ponder ourselves. It is a story that requires our imagination. I think Luke did well with that verse… a confession, perhaps, that he could recount towns and animals and messages from angels, but he could not begin to recount the things Mary thought and felt.
So let our children sing and let our hearts ponder and let the poets and musicians help our imagination along this Christmas: