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The REAL Christmas Characters: Mary

January 1, 2018
The Infancy Narratives in the gospels of Mathew and Luke are filled with rich symbolism. The Evangelists were Christians of the first century whose lives were dramatically changed after the death and resurrection of Jesus. It was their deep faith in Jesus and their concrete experience of the Christian community that informed the theology that permeates the Christmas story.
The Christmas story is so good because so many unexpected things happen! The protagonist in Luke’s infancy narrative? A poor teenage girl from a remote outpost of the Roman empire. When the angel Gabriel visits Mary with a life-changing message from God, Jesus’ life becomes dependent on her response and cooperation.
What do we know about Mary? Well, very little actually. Outside of Luke’s infancy narrative, Mary plays a relatively minor role in the Gospels. But the two most fundamental things Christians believe about her come from the Christmas stories in Luke and Matthew: 1) her divine maternity, and 2) her virginal conception.
Imagine being told two impossible things like that, and then saying yes! Mary is a kind of prophet at the beginning of Luke’s Gospel: she’s poor, ordinary, and powerless; all the qualities of a person Jesus will later be drawn to, and who ultimately inherit the Kingdom of God. And she’s a model believer, who trusted in God when something was humanly impossible.
Luke’s Christmas story is about who Jesus really is, but it’s also about Mary, the prophet and model disciple, who reminds us of that important Christmas message: nothing is impossible for God.
“One will never understand the infancy narratives without first being convinced that all Gospel material has been colored by the faith and experience of the church of the first century.”
Fr. Raymond Brown, SS, "An Adult Christ at Christmas"
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