Summary: Many times we can misunderstand Mary’s role in the redemption story. Let’s look at how God used Mary to bring His salvation to His people.

Misunderstood Mary

It’s not easy to be politically correct during the Christmas season. I recently came across a 90’s version of “The Night Before Christmas.” Let me read just part of it to you:

Twas the night before Christmas and Santa’s a wreck...

How to live in a world that’s politically correct?

His workers no longer want to be called “Elves.”

“Vertically Challenged” they were calling themselves.

Four reindeer had vanished, without much propriety,

Released to the wilds by the humane society.

The runners had been removed from his sleigh;

the ruts were termed dangerous by the E.P.A.

And to show you the strangeness of life’s ebbs and flows,

Rudolf was suing over the misuse of his nose

And had gone on Geraldo, in front of the nation,

Demanding millions in over-due compensation.

Before we look at the misunderstanding surrounding Mary, I want to clear up some misconceptions that may be circulating in this community about Pontiac Bible Church. As you may know, several months ago, we had the honor of hosting the groundbreaking ceremony for OSF St. James hospital right here in this room. I’m sure it probably created quite a stir when about 10 nuns were seen leaving the Bible Church that morning! People may be wondering if our new annex plans include space for a convent…

But, something else happened more recently, which needs to be cleared up. Did you notice in last Saturday’s paper that Pontiac Bible Church is hosting a fiesta in honor of the Virgin of Guadalupe today? Actually, this was a misprint ­ though it would have been fun to have a piñata.

Misunderstandings are everywhere, aren’t they?

The Overestimated Mary

The often misunderstood Mary was a major character in the divine drama that first Christmas. Mary plays two widely differing roles among Catholics and Protestants. In fact, I’ve been in both camps ­ I was raised Catholic and now I’m a Protestant.

From my perspective, it seems to me that many Catholics overestimate the role of Mary. According to Catholic teaching, “God has committed to Mary the treasury of all good things, in order that through her are obtained every hope, every grace, and all salvation.” (Pope Pius, IX) Another Pope has put it this way: “It is the will of God that we should have nothing which has not passed through the hands of Mary.” (Pius, XII).

Recently, there has been a push among many Catholics for the present Pope to declare Mary the “Co-Redeemer, Mediator of All Graces, and Advocate for the People of God.” (Christianity Today, 12/8/97).

While we were living in Mexico for three years, we were amazed and grieved by all the attention given to the Virgin. In fact, today is the Day of the Virgin in Mexico, and millions of people will pay homage to her. Hundreds of thousands will make a pilgrimage to the Basilica in Mexico City from all over the country; many of them will walk on their knees. Beth and I have been to this shrine on several occasions and have observed people climbing the rough cement stairs on their knees, leaving bloodstains behind them.

I’ll never forget an experience Beth and I had shortly after we arrived in Mexico. As part of our attempt to understand the culture, we made it a practice to visit different churches. If we were out walking, and came across a church, we would try to at least look inside. One day, we found an open church and walked in. It was a fairly large building, but pretty plain on the inside. As we walked toward the front, we couldn’t help but see a huge statue of the virgin, hung prominently right in the middle of the wall, directly above the altar. This image was probably 30 or 40-feet high! As we got closer, we then saw a small statue of Jesus, only about two feet high, placed at the feet of Mary. We just stared with our mouths open in disbelief, while our eyes flooded with tears. There’s something wrong with that picture, isn’t there?

Before I say what I want to say next, please understand that I am not a Catholic-basher. I care deeply for those who are Catholic. However, it must be clearly taught ­ Mary has no place in our redemption. It is only by the shed blood of Jesus that you and I can have forgiveness of sin and open access to God the Father. Mary is not a co-redemptorist or a mediator. She needed to have her sins forgiven, just like we do. Don’t give to Mary that which belongs only to Jesus.

The Underestimated Mary

Now, let me be quick to add that while many Catholics overestimate Mary’s importance and attribute things to her that are not taught in the Bible, most Protestants underestimate her importance. Many of us allow her a cameo appearance in Christmas cards, carols, and nativity scenes during this time of the year, but then we tuck her away like a Christmas ornament, out of sight, out of mind, until her reappearance next December. Mary is often the victim of simple neglect, having been abandoned to a kind of evangelical limbo. Some of us have consigned her to virtual oblivion.

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Ted Baker

commented on Nov 28, 2006

Thank you for your insightful message. I appreciated the focus on God's Word and the relevant illustrations. Good job!

Dean Johnson

commented on Dec 3, 2013

Appreciated the overestimated/underestimated approach.

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