Breath of Heaven (Mary’s Song)
At times lost in all of the celebration of Christmas is the human drama of Motherhood. Of Mary. This young teenaged Jewish girl who in a short amount of time became betrothed to an older, good man in Joseph; spoke her fiat before the angel Gabriel when he appeared to her out of nowhere, telling her of her destiny; felt her baby inside stir when she met with her much older, elderly cousin Elizabeth (herself pregnant with the babe that would grow to be John the Baptist). Surely these events must have sent the mind of this girl swimming in confusion and doubt. In the midst of this she and Joseph find themselves leaving Nazareth for Bethlehem in order to abide by a census decree, and well…you know the rest.
There is a reason why the story of Christ’s life is called The Greatest Story Ever Told. In Amy Grant’s beautiful song you get a glimpse of just a sliver of the drama unfolding around the birth of Christ. In this song…this prayerful meditation…Mary is questioning this plan of which she has been called to center stage. She is human, after all, and as she is led on the back of a donkey by her husband through the darkness while in such discomfort and pain near childbirth it is only natural that she in a sense wonders “Why me?”
But don’t we all? How many other mothers have found themselves asking the same question as they near the birth of a child? Or fathers, for that matter? How many of us, children ourselves…nor matter our age in years…look towards the heavens and whisper, whine, wail, or cry out “WHY ME?”
Do you wonder
As you watch my face
If a wiser one, should of had my place?
Whenever I experience this frustration I think of Mary. I remember this song and story and am given the strength to see things through. I’m sure most if not all of you reading this are familiar with A Charlie Brown Christmas. One of the most famous scenes is where Linus steps onto the stage and tells Charlie Brown “what Christmas is all about” by reciting from the Gospel of St. Luke (Luke 2:8-14). But had he continued with the next few lines you would learn more regarding Mary’s strength. Because after the angels left the shepherds appeared. The shepherds, too, had been told stories about Mary’s baby. And Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. – Luke 2:19
Eight days later she visits the Temple for her son’s circumcision and was met outside by a holy man named Simeon. He, too, had received a message from God and had something to tell Mary: “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed. And a sword shall pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” – Luke 2:34-35
Imagine what this young girl must be thinking! This is not what she signed up for! But then to top it off an angel warns her husband to take her and her newborn and flee into exile for a few years because Herod so desperately wants to kill their infant son that he will order the slaughter of the innocents, when soldiers killed every boy in Bethlehem aged two or younger. (Matthew 2:13-18)
So when I feel weighed down and asking myself “Why me?” I remember Mary. I find the strength to get off my knees and stand again. This song by Amy Grant has always brought me back to that place. I’ve personally witnessed it silencing a busy music store crammed with Christmas shoppers in a frantic mall scene as it played over the store’s speakers. I know this because it was the store I managed in Omaha. My staff and I never ceased to be amazed by the fact that this simple song was able to bring some peace to our weary staff and tired patrons.
May it do the same for all of us. May this song and lyrics remind us of Mary as she participates in The Greatest Story Ever Told, and shows us by her strength and example a way to deal with our own unique struggles and doubts.
In March 2009 during the Feast of the Annunciation I wrote my own little meditation on Mary’s visit from Gabriel. You can read it here.