Yes, Mary Knew

"But not all Christians have been pleased with this Nativity tune. As the song resurfaces each Christmastide, so do the enthusiastic complaints regarding its sappiness and its condescension toward Mary." - CToday

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Larry Nelson's picture

...but I can't get worked up about it.  To me it appears a simple rhetorical question, which a careful examination of the lyrics leaves unanswered:

"Mary did you know that your baby boy would one day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy would save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you've delivered, will soon deliver you

Mary did you know that your baby boy will give sight to a blind man?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will calm a storm with his hand?
Did you know that your baby boy has walked where angels trod?
When you kiss your little baby, you kiss the face of God

Mary did you know? Mary did you know? Mary did you know?

Mary did you know? Mary did you know? 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

Mary did…

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?
That sleeping child you're holding is the great I am

Mary did you know? Mary did you know? Mary did you know?

Mary did you know? Mary did you know? Mary did you know? Oh

Mary did you know?"

-------------------------------------

Did she know? Well, unless she later developed total amnesia, this encounter should have given her some definitive, lasting knowledge of precisely Who her Son-to-be was and is:

"26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her." (Luke 1:26-38 ESV)

pvawter's picture

I recently heard someone compare Mary, Did You Know? to Alas, and Did My Savior Bleed? No one gets worked up about Watts' rhetorical questions, yet many love to dump on the popular Christmas tune. I think this article does a good job of telling everyone just to give it a rest and embrace the wonder of the incarnation.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Clearly, she knew her son would be the Son of God, since she was told that.  Since she also knew he was to be the Messiah, she probably had a vague idea of what that meant, at least as much as she could have gotten from the prophecies and the rabbis that expounded on those scriptures.  However, as we still have arguments today over the meaning of the incarnation, hypostatic union, the Trinity, etc., she probably didn't have a really good idea what all that meant yet.

She certainly had no idea exactly how he would accomplish his mission, and exactly what he would do in service of that mission.  She may have even not understood that the Messiah would not immediately set the Jews free from their earthly masters, and not set up his kingdom for (at least) another 2000 years or more, as it's clear that many did not understand that.  It's even more clear (since we are told) that neither she nor Joseph completely understood his ministry, given their reaction after he taught as a child in the temple and was about his Father's business.

While it's certainly not the Christmas song with the most amount of solid theology, I don't see it as a load of heresy either, or even as weak as "I come to the garden alone."

Dave Barnhart

David R. Brumbelow's picture

I never understood how one song that really speaks to one person, does not do anything for the next. 

But, “Mary Did You Know” speaks to me and blesses me.  I wish I had written it.  It also contains some good theology. 

David R. Brumbelow

TylerR's picture

Editor

I really hate this song! 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

JSwaim's picture

Ultimately, the song is asking the one who hears it if THEY know these truths about Christ.  So when I hear the song being played on a secular radio station I am glad to hear it.  Is the song a little sentimentalistic?  It's from the Gaithers, so what do you expect?  Still that's not all bad if it comes in small doses.

David R. Brumbelow's picture

Emotion is good, God made us that way.  Fact is better.  “Mary Did You Know” has both.  But then, doesn’t most every Christian song have some amount of emotion? 

David R. Brumbelow

ScottS's picture

I just sang this song a cappella last Sunday for my church (and not as a lullaby). I don't sing a song in church unless I agree with the theology behind it. So before I ever considered singing, I investigated. Of course the whole song hinges on Christ being God incarnate, and as such, every line could have been known to Mary while holding her baby boy in her arms based on the Old Testament revelation (results of my investigation):

Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy
            Would one day walk on water?                      Ps 29:3, 104:3; Dan 12:6-7?
Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy
            Would save our sons and daughters?              Ps 144:11-12, Isa 43:5-6, 49:22, 60:4
Did you know that your Baby Boy
            Has come to make you new;                           Ezek 11:19, 36:26
This Child that you delivered
            Will soon deliver you.                                    Joel 2:32

Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy
            Will give sight to a blind man?                      Isa 29:18, 35:5
Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy
            Will calm the storm with His hand?               Ps 89:9
Did you know that your Baby Boy
            Has walked where Angels trod?                     Gen 28:12; Job 22:14
When you kiss your Little Baby,
            You kiss the Face of God!                              Isa 7:14, 9:6

Oh, Mary, did you know?

The blind will see, the deaf will hear,                        Isa 29:18, 35:5
            The dead will live again.                                Isa 26:19
The lame will leap, the dumb will speak                    Isa 35:6
            The praises of the lamb!                                 Isa 53:7, Ps 61:7-8

Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy
            Is Lord of all creation?                                   Isa 9:6
Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy
            Will one day rule the nations?                        Isa 9:7, 41:2, 49:22
Did you know that your Baby Boy
            Is Heaven's Perfect Lamb?                             Isa 53:7
This sleeping Child you're holding
            Is the Great I Am!                                           Exo 3:14, Isa 9:6

So she could have known each part (or at least that He would be capable of such, as the fact that He would walk on water is not specifically prophesied like most of the other points asked about), if she put it all together. But I think the article hits the point well with this statement:

Mary knew her child would be the Messiah, as we now know that God became man. But that sort of knowledge does not leave us without questions. As Mary rocked her baby to sleep, night after night, did she not wonder what it would all mean, how her child’s Messiahship would play out in all its startling particularity?

It is the contemplation of the mystery of the incarnation, that Christ is the God-man, something that still challenges theologians today, that makes the song so compelling to me for its contrast of the human/Divine nature of Christ, and the revelation/mystery of the incarnation and Messianic promises, and then between Mary and Him: the mother/child relationship, creature/Creator relationship, sinner/Savior relationship.

After my song, in our small congregation (less than 100), I had I believe 5 people (so over 5%) come up and tell me that was their favorite Christmas song (which actually did shock me, since there are a lot of songs to choose from).

Scott Smith, Ph.D.

The goal now, the destiny to come, holiness like God—
Gen 1:27, Lev 19:2, 1 Pet 1:15-16

Bert Perry's picture

I'll grant that it is not (h/t Scott) a line by line exposition of theology.  What it is, rather, is a bit of contemplation (H/T Dave) of God's goodness--contemplation that we might describe Biblically as meditation and poetry that we see in places like the songs of OT heroes and the Psalms.  It's a kind of meditation that the great frescoes, stained glass, sculpture, and the like in European churches is supposed to encourage.  (we can debate whether it's successful, but that was theoretically the design)

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

M. Osborne's picture

Of course the song uses a rhetorical question to get us to think.

But besides that, I think Luke's narrative itself invites us to see the Christmas events through the eyes of various saints who kinda-sorta know that God is finally fulfilling His promises, but are still coming to grips with what it all means.

For Mary in particular:

  1. "But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart." (Luke 2:19)
  2. Mary receiving Simeon's words: " And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother...'Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also.'" (Luke 2:34-35)
  3. "But his mother kept all these sayings in her heart." (Luke 2:51)

There's the knowledge that roller coasters are exciting; and then there's the knowledge that comes only when the lap bar is locked and you hear the rack and pinion system clicking as the chain pulls you up the hill, which (for me anyway) makes me re-think what I thought I knew. Smile

Michael Osborne
Philadelphia, PA

ScottS's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

I'll grant that it is not (h/t Scott) a line by line exposition of theology.  

I wanted to be clear that I do not see the song as an "exposition of theology." My line by line analysis was to see if there was any theological warrant behind each question/statement (i.e. could Mary have known/grasped/surmised that point, based on revelation she had access to, i.e. the Old Testament).

Scott Smith, Ph.D.

The goal now, the destiny to come, holiness like God—
Gen 1:27, Lev 19:2, 1 Pet 1:15-16

TylerR's picture

Editor

My dislike has nothing to do with theology. I just don't like it! 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Lee's picture

My pastor loves it.

I can't stand it.

We still get along just fine.  

Nuff said.

 

Lee

Philip Golden Jr.'s picture

That he lit a bomb up in the evangelical stratosphere when writing this song?

Phil Golden

Bert Perry's picture

I wasn't accusing Scott, either.  :^)  Blessings, and Merry, contemplative, meditative, Christmas.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

ScottS's picture

Tyler, you titled your post of the video "Vader Did You Know" as "Better," but really? I grant you it is a humorous parody (I can appreciate it on that level). But the original song exalts Christ (whether you care for the song or not), so I don't see how a Star Wars parody could be reasonably conceived as "Better." I hope that your title of "Better" was meant as sarcastic, which sarcasm can be lost in writing.

Scott Smith, Ph.D.

The goal now, the destiny to come, holiness like God—
Gen 1:27, Lev 19:2, 1 Pet 1:15-16

ScottS's picture

I listened to the Pentatonix rendition on the CToday link, and I hated that rendition of it. Smile

Scott Smith, Ph.D.

The goal now, the destiny to come, holiness like God—
Gen 1:27, Lev 19:2, 1 Pet 1:15-16

Lee's picture

ScottS wrote:

I listened to the Pentatonix rendition on the CToday link, and I hated that rendition of it. Smile

It's Pentatonix.  It wouldn't matter what they were singing. But, of course, that's true for most of these a cappella renditions that are so popular these days (possible exception: Straight, No Chaser and their 12 days of Christmas).  IM(not so)HO  Smile

 

Lee

TylerR's picture

Editor

You've caught me - I secretly uphold the deity of Darth Vader.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Bert Perry's picture

Sanam, an Indian/Bollywood pop band.  And CeeLo Green.  And one in Polish!  And Reba!  Reba really does contemplative well.  

I'll spare you the thrash metal ones I found. Suffice it to say that the lyrical style did not lend itself to meditation.  There are other places where great guitar work can be enjoyed.

Personally, I like what Pentatonix did with it--it's pretty good for people who don't necessarily believe the Christmas story.  Not a huge fan of their contratenor that mixes it up with Kirstin Maldonado, though until you realize it's a guy, it works musically.  I'd personally love to see more fundamentalists looking at various arrangements and asking themselves "what works here, lyrically, musically, and such?"

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.