If you do not listen to theology, that will not mean that you have no ideas about God. It will mean that you have a lot of wrong ones— bad, muddled, out-of-date ideas. (C. S. Lewis)
There is something exceedingly improving to the mind in a study of the Divinity. It is a subject so vast, that all our thoughts are lost in its immensity; so deep, that our pride is drowned in its infinity. (C.H. Spurgeon)
In 1984, Mark Lowry wrote the lines to “Mary, Did You Know?” He was fascinated by the incarnation of God in the womb of a teenage mother. His song is a list of questions he wanted to ask Mary if they ever met. Questions like: “Mary, did you know your Baby Boy would save our sons and daughters? That your Baby Boy has come to make you new? That this Child that you delivered will soon deliver you? That your Baby Boy is Lord of all creation? That your Baby Boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?”
The soft tones of the carol warm our festive hearts. We are lulled back to the manger, amidst animals and hay, even as Christmas lights flutter around the wintery scenes in towns. The questions cater to the sentiments all the while melodiously questioning Mary’s awareness of her baby’s deity.
But we don’t have to wonder if Mary knew. The Bible tells us. Mary knew!
Behind her youthful bones and blooming womanhood, Mary carried a strong theology. This young girl was more informed than Mr. Lowry seems to think. Mary is not an average teenage woman. The Word of God dwelled richly within her. She opens her mouth and out comes a splendid Magnificat that trails God’s promises from Genesis to eternity. (Luke 1:48, 55). The song reveals the intimate portrait of a faithful God she grew to know from the scrolls of the Old Testament. She trusted God for salvation in Messiah as she feasted from the recorded words of God. She praises her Lord who proved mighty, holy, merciful, strong, sovereign, never changing, a God who is provider, protector, judge, helper, deliverer, and promise keeper. (Luke 1:46-55). She is confident in her salvation not based just on recent angelic events, but on the eternal Promise Maker she loves.
Mary was good at pondering. She “tried to discern” what the angel foretold her (Luke 1:29). She “kept all things in her heart”, “reflecting on them” soon after the shepherds came and left. (Luke 2:19, 51). Mary knows how to “ponder things.” She’s a thinking mom. She practiced her pondering over time. The habit of “preserving” took intentional time and effort. She prioritized the gospel in her life. She filled her mind with eternal things that not only gave her a future hope, but carried her also through present changes. Some events made sense; others remained a mystery to her. Some details comforted her, while many others left her asking more questions. Regardless, we find Mary pondering all kinds of ordinary and extraordinary things. A gospel theologian doesn’t store only what she can fully understand and explain; a faithful theologian gathers her soul and mind around these divine truths no matter the present state of comprehension. We don’t need a theology that makes sense at all times, in all things; we need a theology that gives heavenly sense to all things, in all times.
Mary might have been confused at the angel’s greeting, surprised at the big heavenly fuss around her son’s birth, or nervous at her son’s apologetic debates with the Jewish leaders. But she “weighed” these events in her heart nonetheless.
Mary was an intentional woman who made storing up God’s Word a priority. She did not need to attend Jewish seminaries or Bible camps. By all accounts, she was an average faithful Jewish woman—working at home and helping her family with the daily chores. She must have been as busy as we are today, and yet, she did not let mundane business limit her theology. I don’t know if she overheard the leaders in the synagogue teach the Old Testament. Or maybe she had some law expert relative who sat with her family in the evenings, teaching about Yahweh. Or maybe her father had daily devotionals with his family. What we read in her song is what she has stored in her heart over the years. Mary had a rich theology because she invested intentional time and effort in the study of the Bible.
Mary puts her theology to good use in the house of her cousin Elizabeth. Right there, in their typical Jewish habitat, pots and pans on the table, Middle Eastern spices hovering in the air, sheep bleating in the yard, neighbors scurrying around —two common mothers share in their divine theologies, touching their bellies, rejoicing at their unborn babies.
Charles Spurgeon took note of Mary, calling her “one of the most excellent of the mothers in Israel.” Could it be that it was her very habitual practices of faith in God, and daily Bible ponderings that made this mother “excellent” and faithful? Can it be that such routine, daily disciplines of intentional Word intake actually deepen a woman’s theology?
Mary’s theology was not flashy or eccentric. It is not just head knowledge or academic. She didn’t debate her gospel knowledge in public squares or on social forums. Instead, her theology was humble in expressiveness but mighty in content. Mary models a theology that nears us to our Lord and Savior. She lives out a theology that praises God inside homes just as fervently as in public places.
The same is true for us. The domestic, routine platforms of any Christian woman enhance the flavors of the gospel, they don’t stifle it. Mary reminds us that all women benefit from such theology. Moms, wives, women need theology! Rich theology makes us holier. It doesn’t answer all our questions for all times immediately; but it assures a final answer for all things in Christ. Humble theology equips us to live our ordinary testimonies with the heavenly promises of God in us—our Immanuel pondered well in our hearts.
Pondering God’s promises this Christmas Eve.
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