Dan Mielke: Are you Mary for Christmas
Is Christmas a time to be Mary? If you think you found a typo, please keep reading. I want to share with you a burden that I have felt many times around the Christmas season.
Sometimes as Christians we adopt the mentality of Christmas as this happy mystical season where nothing goes wrong and we expect Christmas time to resemble a Hallmark movie.
During the Christmas season we sings songs with ideas such as, “All is calm, all is bright …,” “He rules the world with truth and grace …” If we are honest with ourselves, it doesn’t seem that all is calm or that the world is being ruled very well at all. It is to this very tension that the truth of the Christmas story is able to bring hope and peace. I would like to answer the question of whether we should be Mary at Christmas by looking at two Christmas stories separated by 1,000 years.
The first story starts with two people on the road to Bethlehem. The story is recounted in the first chapter of the book of Ruth. Mary and Joseph’s great, great, great grandmother, Ruth, is on the road to Bethlehem. The Bible tells us that the other woman, Naomi, is returning to Bethlehem. She is returning and mourning the loss of her husband and two sons. When she returns the women of Bethlehem greet her and ask her a question. “Is this Naomi?” The question, although simple, is filled with meaning.
Naomi means sweetness. When the women ask if “sweetness” has returned, Naomi responds with her new name, “Call me Mara.” We see the introduction of this name in Exodus 15, and her new name means, “Bitter.” Life had squeezed all the sweetness out of a young Naomi and all of her hopes and dreams lay as barren as her womb and as empty as her arms. The woman on the road to Bethlehem disguises her bah-humbug with a clever word play and in essence is saying, “Mary, Christmas.”
If we fast forward 1,000 years, we will find another woman on the road to Bethlehem named Mary. The significance is instantly seen when we realize her name comes from the name Mara. This is not implying that Mary was bitter. The Bible describes her as a woman of character, yet God is painting a beautiful picture in these passages. Naomi lost her sweetness and became bitter, while her relative Mary in the same town is pregnant with sweetness.
In the Old Testament, Mara returns to Bethlehem without a child. In the New Testament, we find MARy on the road to Bethlehem great with child. In the first story of Mara, sweetness has left and Naomi has been replaced with bitterness. In the second story, Mara comes to Bethlehem under bitter circumstances, yet her womb contains hope and the sweet Water of Life.
Why are the stories of Mara different? Because of the difference Christ makes. In her great Magnificat, Mary declares why we can have a Merry Christmas. “And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior.” (Luke 1:46-47) Mary herself claims Jesus as her Savior and God. The presence of Jesus transforms the road to Bethlehem from one of Mara to salvation.
This Christmas season may feel more like the season of loss that Naomi felt, but remember the story doesn’t end there. In order for there to be true joy at Christmas, we must not focus on the loss that we have endured, but focus on the Christ who came to give us life. Do you have a reason outside of your circumstances to be truly merry this Christmas? Jesus is willing to transform your MARy Christmas to merry Christmas if you trust Him today.