Christmas in Reverse: What Mary Didn’t Know

Confession: I have a love/hate relationship with the Christmas song “Mary, Did You Know?”

Every year, the powerful lyrics put a lump in my throat. To see what I mean, check out this version by Pentatonix. I dare you to listen and not get goosebumps.

Yet I struggle with this song, because Mary didn’t know.

  • She didn’t know what she was agreeing to.
  • She didn’t know her miracle baby would be murdered while she watched.
  • She didn’t know that the Christmas story, which began so magically, would seem to end so tragically.

If you’ve been to a Christmas program or two, you already know that the angel Gabriel told Mary she would be Jesus’ momma like this:

“Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus” (Luke 1:30–31, emphasis added).

We think finding favor with God means a ticket to endless blessings. Mary was blessed for sure, but as we peel back the layers of the Christmas story, we see those blessings came with burdens.

This week, we are looking at the Christmas story in reverse. Instead of starting with a manger in Bethlehem, we started with the empty tomb. (Be sure to check out that post here.) Today, we continue our journey toward Jesus’ birth by looking at the cross.

No Christmas Without The Cross

Since I already made one confession, I hope you don’t mind another. The cross makes me . . . squirmy. Several years ago, when The Passion of the Christ came out on the big screen, I ran out of the theater in tears. I’ve never seen the whole movie.

I just can’t stomach the blood and guts, the injustice of it all, and the sorrow Christ was forced to bear. I force myself to read the story in the gospels once a year, but like my annual teeth cleaning, I’d rather do almost anything else.

The cross isn’t sanitary. We can’t wrap it up in ribbons and bows and make it shine. It’s not a scene we’d ever paint on a Christmas card or post on Christmas morning. But without the cross, Christmas loses its wonder.

Without the cross, Christmas loses its wonder.

Jesus didn’t come to give us presents, wrapped neatly under the Christmas tree. He didn’t come to usher in peace on earth (at least, not yet). He came with a singular mission: to save us from our sin.

The picture we have of baby Jesus, lying in a manger carved of rough hewn barnwood, is fitting. Later His back would be scratched and scarred as He carried a wooden cross toward the site of ultimate suffering.

We love to look over the rim of the manger and see Jesus, peacefully lying there. But we must also lift our eyes to the cross, to see Him beaten and broken to save us from our sins. Without the cross, Christmas is just another birth announcement. Jesus is just another baby boy born then swaddled up in love.

But Jesus lived so He could die in our place. The manger was His first step toward the cross. He chose it all to rescue us.

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (1 Cor. 1:18).

Mary, Did You Know?

Sometimes God’s favor means watching the child you love crucified for all mankind. Mary didn’t know that as the animals and shepherds gathered around to see her boy, but I have a hunch that if she did, she would have chosen to worship Him still.

It’s about more than a manger. It’s about a Savior.

Like Mary, we can’t see all the things God is doing in our lives and in the lives of the world around us, but we can see the manger and the cross. Both stand as monuments to Christ’s humility, His love for us, and His power over sin. That makes the Christmas story a gospel story.

It’s about more than a manger. It’s about a Savior.

How does the gospel shift how you’ll worship Jesus this Christmas?

PS: Please consider reading the story of the cross yourself in the coming days. You can find it in Matthew 27.

PSS: Don’t miss tomorrow’s “Christmas in Reverse” post, where we’ll join the crowds to listen to Jesus preach the most famous sermon in history.

About Author

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Erin is passionate about pointing young women toward God's Truth. She is the author of several books and a frequent speaker and blogger to women of all ages. Erin lives on a small farm in the midwest with her husband and kids. When she's not writing, you can find her herding goats, chickens, and children.

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