Eight years ago I was playing Mary in a church Christmas play. I was 21. Unmarried. Without children. Troy and I had just started dating. He was playing Joseph.
I could act like a scared teenager. I could draw on personal experience and emotion. Had an angel come to me and said, "You will conceive and give birth to a son..."
Well, I would have responded with, "How can this be? I've never been with a man."
But labor, despite the fact that the rest of the women in the cast tried relentlessly to explain it to me, was a little hard to act my way through. Looking into the eyes of a baby and wondering what it would feel like to be a mother--that escaped me too.
This year, Troy is playing Joseph to my Mary once again. I do realize that this time around my Mary is old enough to have a teenage Jesus but with a head piece to cover all my gray hair and make-up to mask my wrinkles, we're making it work. Truthfully and thankfully, at least in this instance, I still look like a juvenile.
It's a little strange to have a 29-year-old Mary. But having experienced pregnancy and labor allows me the opportunity to use those memories. Having looked into the eyes of my firstborn son and knowing I'd give my life for him helps me as an actor while I stare into the eyes of the tiny little actress playing baby Jesus and listen as the notes of Mary Did You Know? ring out.
Except Mary didn't give her life for her son. Instead, He gave His for her. And I'm quite certain it wasn't even what Mary, His own mother, expected. As she stood at the foot of the cross, watching the excruciating death of her son, did the strains of her song from Luke chapter 1 drift through her mind?
And Mary said:
“My soul glorifies the Lord
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for He has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is His name..."
Did she think of his sleeping baby face? Did she look up to Heaven in complete confusion? "Lord, you said He would redeem us all. And now I am watching my flesh and my blood hanging on a cross." Or did she quote Jeremiah? "I know the plans you have for all of us, Father." Did she fight through the raw grief and exclaim, "My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices..." Did she realize that she had to lose her Son in order to gain her Savior?
You see, Mary experienced my biggest fear. She lost her child. He rose again, three days later, but then ascended into Heaven to take His proper place at the right hand of the Father. He died as her son so that He could live as her Redeemer.
Though He was risen and alive, I'm rather certain that she still grieved. Her son was gone from this earth. But it was no longer the hollow ache of a son lost forever. And knowing that He had become her Savior, well, I believe she just might have whispered the familiar words of a song she sang as a scared teenager. "The mighty one has done great things for me. Holy is His name."