“But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Luke 2:19 ESV).
It all started when Jerry Falwell asked Mark Lowry for some help.
For more than 40 years, Thomas Road Baptist Church in Lynchburg, Virginia has produced an extremely popular Christmas program. First called the Living Christmas Tree, it was later named the Virginia Christmas Spectacular. In 1984 Jerry Falwell, well-known pastor, author, speaker, and founder of the church in Lynchburg (and Liberty University) asked Mark Lowry (who was then virtually unknown) to write some dialogue for the Christmas program that year. He ended up with a series of questions he would like to ask Mary. Those questions were used between scenes of the Christmas program.
In 1991 he shared his idea for a song with his friend Buddy Greene while the two men rode a tour bus cross-country. Several days later Greene called and said the melody had come to him in just 30 minutes. Mary, Did You Know? has become a holiday classic, featured in Christmas programs around the world.
The song lingers in the mind because the title asks us to consider a question we can’t fully answer:
How much did Mary know about the birth of her son?
No doubt Mary thought about what Gabriel said, and how Joseph responded when she told him she was pregnant. She must have recalled the long, arduous journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem, and all the events of the birth itself, including the surprise visit of the shepherds. She certainly had plenty to think about. No doubt she wondered why God had chosen her, and I’m sure she pondered what was ahead for her newborn son.
The refrain reminds us of Jesus’ miracle-working power:
Oh Mary did you know
The blind will see, the deaf will hear, the dead will live again.
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak, the praises of the lamb.
The song ends with a strong statement about Jesus’ true identity:
Mary did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day rule the nations?
Did you know that your baby boy is heaven's perfect Lamb?
This sleeping child you're holding is the great I am.
How much of all this did Mary know? We can read a large part of the answer in Luke 1:26-38. Mary heard the amazing things Gabriel said, but she could not have foreseen all the details of the life of her son, Jesus of Nazareth. That makes her response in Luke 1:38 all the more remarkable: “I am the Lord’s slave. May it be done to me according to your word.”
When the angel said, “Nothing is impossible with God,” Mary took a deep breath and said, “Be it unto me as you have said.” And with those words, Christmas came to the world.
Let’s listen together as Kathy Mattea sings Mary, Did You Know?
Our Father, thank you for the amazing gift of your Son. Sometimes we doubt because we fear what the future holds. Make us like Mary, willing to believe even when we don’t completely understand. Amen.