Posted by: jadanzzy | December 6, 2007

Blessed Mary, Meet Santa Claus

[this is pretty long. but i hope you can help me…]

Just several weeks back, as I started reading Luke again, I came across the Magnificat, Mary’s song of Praise

Now, in the past during advent season, two things happened: the Magnificat wasn’t spoken of at all. Or when it was, it was seen as some fluffy song of “ladeeda.” Yes, very forgetful. Actually the only time I remember really learning the Magnificat was when it was turned into a worship song and sung in my college church. But even then, it wasn’t revolutionary. Maybe it’s because I’ve learned, as a very good protestant, to virtually hate Mary.

This time, however, when I carefully read through her song, I was stunned. Here Mary was, claiming justice:

And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.

Speaking of heroes (see previous entry), Scot Mcknight, author of The Jesus Creed, has been mine as of late. In his aforementioned book, he spoke of Mary’s plight, poverty, and oppression. This is especially heightened because of her being a resident of Nazareth, a God-forsaken hick town that nothing good comes out of (think south Georgia). Here, in the Magnificat I finally saw her plight come to fruition in the song. But not only her plight, I saw the reversal. I saw her cry of victory and of praise, because God was going to save and restore her and her people. What she may not have known was that Jesus’ plan was to save and restore the world.

I don’t know what Mary’s tone may have been. It could have been one of celebratory jubilation, or it could have been spoken with clenched fists pining for her due justice and eyes gazing at what will be. Or it could have been both. What I do know is that this was Mary’s story of advent. Through Mary, I can see that the Incarnation of Jesus was going to set one kingdom to overthrow another. And Elizabeth’s baby couldn’t help but kick at the sound of Mary’s voice.

This past Sunday, we looked at the Magnificat as the launch of our participating in the Advent Conspiracy*. There, I learned that Mary was most likely prepubescent (approx. 11-12 years old), as the word ‘virgin’ connotes more than a sexual status. I knew she was young, but I didn’t know she was that young. This started the whole chain reaction of impossibility turning to reality. Not only was she to give birth as just an engaged virgin, but a virgin not even physically ready to give birth. This sets the stage of Jesus’ Incarnation and his ministry. Nothing is as it seems. And Herod will be scared and will be threatened. So the Herod of today (whatever that is) continues to be. I see a new side to Advent and the Christmas season. The justice of the Kingdom of God. The overthrow of one Empire, and the advance and establishment of the Just Kingdom.

I’ve decided, during every advent season, to remind myself of Mary. Because Mary started her Advent season with hope and longing to see the world made to rights. Through a child born to her, a cosmic revolution has occurred…

* Advent Conspiracy is an international movement restoring the scandal of Christmas by worshipping Jesus through compassion, not consumption. If it hasn’t yet, get your local church involved in this!


This cosmic revolution was set to defy the empire that trapped not only Mary and her people, but the lives of all humanity. The empire has become more than a political entity. But the entity of fallenness and sin. That entity embodies itself today through cultures and systems.

America, like many Western nations, has come to embody the empire of the self, wealth, consumption, and greed. If I were to embrace the idea of Mary as the symbol of justice in this and every future advent season, then what do I make of everything Christmas has come to be in America?

And this is the reality that I face.

In my later college years, I took on an idealistic, self-righteous posture towards the American Christmas, regarding it as the whoring of what was once good. I blamed I-don’t-know-who for turning Christmas into a consumerist paradise with an obese man bearing gifts and evergreen trees laden with plastics and booby traps set for the Wet Bandits (a 50″ LCD TV for the one who gets that reference). The only logical solution I had was to separate myself from these traditions of empire. Even Christians have co-opted the “true meaning of Christmas” for the meaning of Christmas that the empire has establish to keep us quiet. But how far can one go in maintaining that posture without being looked at as a grinch or cynic?

But if I embrace Mary, don’t I embrace the subversive nature of Advent?

It will do me no good to be a scrooge and bah-humbug my way through this advent season. It will do me no good to deny the only expression of love that my family and friends have learned to show on Christmas day. For even what the empire has established, a Christian has to find the good in it, right? So what can I do promote this kind of love expression to all I hold dear, while proclaiming Mary’s justice in this advent season?

Which leads me to another issue (if you’re still reading, God bless your heart). How can I even understand Mary’s plight? Here I am, a young American with nice clothes, a laptop, my own car, a nice apartment, and a job that pays me just good enough to be comfortable as a 25-year old. I feel wrong in having to validate myself by “serving the homeless” as they look back at me with spite. I feel wrong for praying for those who are poor when I myself am comparatively rich. And I feel it almost silly and contrived to deny everything I have and live poorly.

So how do I remain faithful to Mary’s store of Advent, leading me to remain faithful to the purpose of Jesus Christ while sifting my way through the various interpretations and expressions of Christmas in America?

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Responses

  1. The Wet Bandits got scammed by a kindy-godna in only one of the best movies ever made, thank you very much. 50″ LCD TV, please.

    Also, I appreciate your attitude toward the end of this blog. I think that we react too much, sometimes, as Christians. Some of my best memories with my family are of us trudging through snow, being stuck in traffic jams, hunting through malls for some perfect gift for Dad or for a cousin or someone at church.

    Love and peace are good, consumerism is bad, yes we know. But sometimes I think we’re better off working within our traditions and embracing them, rather than always fighting against everything. Go ahead and go to the mall this weekend and look for a nice gift for your mom. And then go home and send a nice check to a charity. And then go help your neighbor shovel his snow while you talk about the latest toys that his kids want for Christmas. Be a blessing.

    That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.

  2. I like Jason’s emphasis on the normal. I think that our faith, if it’s biblical and of the same stuff as the heroes of the faith throughout history, must be big enough and audacious enough to change the world (clearly God’s plan) and at the same time let us live everyday in a mundane world of relationships and responsibilities. I have to want to challenge the Empire and have a tickle fight with my kids and be amazed at the color of my wife’s eyes.

    If it’s all revolution and no laughter we are missing grace all around us. If its all laughter and no cross then we are compromising somehow.

  3. I have to disagree with the statement “Maybe it’s because I’ve learned, as a very good protestant, to virtually hate Mary.”

    I have been in many different protestant denominations over my lifetime and I have always been taught not to worship Mary or emphasize her OVER other heros of the faith, but I have always known she was a hero, but equal to others…never hate. What denomination is teaching hate?

  4. I have to clarify the sentence about hating Mary. I never hated Mary. It was a dramatic overstatement used to make a point.

    The point was that, for some reason, Mary was often overlooked when it came to my experiences of the Advent tradition.

    I do remember, at certain times, hearing Mary be strongly downplayed for the purposes of almost, if not totally, invalidating the Catholic tradition.

    =========

    “If it’s all revolution and no laughter we are missing grace all around us. If its all laughter and no cross then we are compromising somehow.”

    Thank you for that. Puts things into perspective.

  5. oh, the ever hyperbolic jadanzzy

    i agree with the reaction, but also with the attitude against overreaction. i also agree that remembering mary during advent is patently appropriate, because no one really anticipated the full picture of Christ’s impact like Mary did.

    i think one way to reconcile the “subversive nature” of advent with the commercialized “gift-giving” nature of americanized christmas is to RESTORE the significance of gift-giving itself. Jesus the savior of the universe was the ultimate gift; it is the reason we gift onto each other. so in addition to steering away from getting lost in consumerism, maybe we can find ways to give gifts that DO hold great meaning. that’s part of the advent conspiracy, right? giving more than getting?

    but does that mean we get a bad taste in our mouths when we receive a gift? maybe a big part of properly understanding advent and christmas is to understand how to reflect being gift-recipients. after all, isn’t that what mary was? not a gift-giver so much as an anticipating recipient?

  6. So, do you need my address? Or should I be picking up the TV somewhere? I wasn’t completely clear on that part of the deal…

  7. LOL. Jason, you are a joker, you!

    Are you in Atlanta? I’ll take you out for beers.

  8. Not Atlanta — Baltimore. But I will take a raincheck on those beers, though.

  9. Hi, Dan,
    I met you at The Living Room (still thinking about that awesome music). I know you mentioned you’re a McKnight fan (as am I). Have you read “The Real Mary: Why Evangelical Christians Can Embrace the Mother of Jesus”? Being a fellow protestant, it feels really good to finally be able hug the Mother of Jesus. The thing is, when I leave the embrace, I find that I have the earthy smell of a peasant girl left on my clothes and cheek. Cool.


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