Mary knew.

Those are the words on a sign of a church I pass coming here every day. I imagine that some might wonder what these two words actually mean. 

If I texted that question to one of my younger friends, they might respond IYKYK. Or for those of us who still use actual words when we text — If you know you know.

Actually, the sign “Mary Knew” is a response to a Christmas song that seems to have gained popularity in recent years — “Mary Did You Know?”

The song asks Mary if she knew that her son would perform miracles, that he was God’s son, that he would bring deliverance to us all.

“Mary, did you know that your baby boy is Lord of all creation?” it asks. “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 the sleeping child you’re holding is the great I AM?

“Mary, did you know? 

“Mary, did you know? 

“Mary, did you know?”

The first few times I heard this song I kind of liked it. The melody is simple and memorable. And I thought it was nice to have a new, popular Christmas song that actually was about the religious meaning of the holiday.

But the more I heard the song, the more I listened to its words, the more annoyed I became by that question — Mary, did you know?

Because anyone who actually reads Mary’s story in the Gospel of Luke knows the answer to that question. Yes. She did.

Mary knew.

Her first clue was when the angel Gabriel appeared to tell her that God had chosen her to bear a son. “He will be great, and called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

Not your typical birth announcement.

If there was any doubt that Mary knew the meaning of her son’s birth it should be erased by the canticle Fena sang so beautifully a few minutes ago — the Magnificat, also known as Mary’s song. 

Mary burst into this song when her cousin Elizabeth, also pregnant with a special son who would become John the Baptist, says to her “Blessed are you, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.”

The Magnificat tells us exactly what Mary knew — that with the birth of her son the proud would be scattered,  the lowly would be lifted up; the mighty would be brought down; the poor would be fed; the rich would be sent away empty. That the whole world would be turned upside down.

Yes, indeed, Mary knew.

Last week a clergy friend sent me an alternate version of this song, written by someone who also found the original words annoying. These alternative words are good for us to hear this morning of the Fourth Sunday of Advent, just a few hours before we will celebrate the birth of Mary’s son.

Mary did you know that your ancient words would still leap off our pages?

Mary did you know that your spirit song would echo through the ages?

Did you know that your holy cry would be subversive word, that the tyrants would be trembling when they know your truth is heard?

Mary did you know that your lullaby would stir your own Child’s passion?

Mary did you know that your song inspires the work of liberation?

Did you know that your Jubileei s hope within the heart of all who dream of justice, who yearn for it to start?

The truth will teach, the drum will sound, healing for the pain.

The poor will rise, the rich will fall. Hope will live again.

Mary did you know, that we hear your voice for the healing of the nations?

Mary did you know, your unsettling cry can help renew creation?

Do you know, that we need your faith, the confidence of you,

May the God that you believe in, may for us also be true.


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