I recently had opportunity to attend the annual Christmas concert at the college where I teach. The joy of the season emanated through every song, but there was one arrangement that especially touched me. Mary Did You Know? written by Mark Lowry, has been recorded by numerous artists since its release in 1992. You’re probably familiar with it. The lyrics ask whether Mary realized her baby boy would someday walk on water, heal the blind, and calm storms…. Did she comprehend that this one who she “delivered would soon deliver” her? Did she know she was holding the “great I am?”
The Lancaster Bible College choir’s rendition was accompanied by beautiful slides of Mary tenderly caressing the baby Jesus. Then, in stark contrast to the lovely Nativity scenes, a picture of Michelangelo’s Pietà appeared…the exquisite sculpture of a grief-stricken Mary cradling the dead body of Jesus after his crucifixion. The juxtaposition of these two slides penetrated my blissful appreciation….
Christmas without a clear understanding of why Christ actually came may instill hopes for peace on earth and goodwill toward men, but hopes based on what? I love the manger, the shepherds, the angels and wise men as much as anyone. I treasure the small crèche that sits on my mantle. But without the Pietà, it’s all reduced to no more than a romantic tale.
Jesus came to the earth to die. “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:5-6). Without his sacrifice, there would be no hope for anyone.
This year I want to move beyond tradition and sentimentality. I want to remember, as Lowry so poignantly writes, that this baby boy…heaven’s perfect lamb…has come to make me new. That is the power of Christmas…