Mary accepted her role in this event with a particular grace and humility. Her expression of worship is amplified by her example of radical self-sacrifice. Not only did she consent to the shame of an unexpected pregnancy or the challenge of an unexpected baby, the prophet Simeon told her that “a sword will pierce through your own soul.” Still, she said yes.
Every year, millions of people visit the Western Wall of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. The exposed surface where people tuck prayers between the stones is only a fraction of the original wall that bordered the Temple before its destruction in A.D. 70. Much of the rest sits underground, where visitors gain access only through a series of tunnels.
At one spot, where part of the original Second Temple wall sits exposed, Jewish women are allowed to gather and pray. Some come every day and stay for hours. They’re praying, in large part, for the Messiah’s coming.
As Christians who live more than 2,000 years after Jesus’ birth, it can be difficult to understand that kind of waiting. Even in the midst of our Christmas celebrations, the coming of Jesus into the world can seem mundane, a less than historical event, or even worse, just another cultural ritual with a vague sense of religion attached.
For devout Jewish people, hope in the salvation of the Lord has meant thousands of years of waiting for one singular event, promised first to Adam and Eve in the garden. There, in the wake of their sin, God promised to “put enmity” between the offspring of the serpent and the offspring of the woman. This very first Messianic prophecy was repeated and clarified throughout the Old Testament, with increasingly rich detail. Isaiah, for example, said that a “virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel,” meaning “God with us.”
Mary knew these promises.