Mary at the foot of the cross

Mary at the cross.jpg

Christmas is a time of the year where we focus on the birth of Jesus accompanied by gift giving and family gatherings. Today I had the opportunity to give the communion thought during our church gathering. If you don’t know, communion (Lord’s Supper or Eucharist) is considered a memorial feast. Traditionally it’s not a feast with large quantities of food and drink; instead it’s a memorial feast made up of unleavened bread or crackers and some wine or grape juice. It is a part of our weekly worship service; a time set aside for remembrance of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. But what does this have to do with Christmas? Christmas is about Jesus’ birth not his death…right?

One of my favorite Christmas songs is “Mary, Did You Know?” The lyrics ask if Mary knew her son would walk on water, that he would save our sons and daughters, that her baby boy had come to make her new. The song does not specifically refer to the cross, so I decided as we approached the time of remembrance to read some of the lyrics and asked if Mary knew her son would die a painful and gruesome death. I can scarcely imagine Mary at the foot of the cross watching the soldiers swing their hammer as they nailed his hands and feet, lifting the cross up in the air and securing it in place by most likely dropping it in a hole, and her son, innocent as a lamb hanging there taking a punishment he did not deserve. She must have felt helpless. She must have felt hopeless. More than once she must have asked “Why?” Mary, did you know? Did you know that your greatest blessing would endure this kind of suffering? Did you know what his sacrifice would ultimately mean to the world? Did you know his death would save you? Did you know his death would save us all?

As we approached the table of communion, I wanted to see if I could put myself at the foot of the cross just like Mary. I wanted to ask if I understood, if I realized, if I knew. There is a reality in this moment, when we try to reflect on an event that happened over 2,000 years ago. Unless we’ve had a son or daughter killed in front of us, we probably cannot grasp the gravity of the experience. Mary, did you know it would come to this? The birth of your son brought forth the one who would be the sacrifice for us all. Mary may not have known, and to some degree I doubt I fully grasp it. Yet, I continue to memorialize the death of Jesus during communion. I break off some bread and I drink some wine and I sit at the foot of the cross, as much as I can, like Mary and I ask myself, “Do I know? Do I understand? Do I appreciate this life that was given for me?”

Mary did you know, that your baby boy will face the whip of torture?
Mary did you know, that the Roman guard would give or show no quarter?
Did you know, that your lovely son will have his body flailed?
This little child you’re raising, on a tree will soon be nailed?

The Earth will shake, the rocks will spilt, the tombs will break free
The wounds will bleed, the boy will speak “Why’d you forsake me?”

Mary did you know?