I’m glad that non-Catholic Christians celebrate Christmas day and I’m glad they share with all other historic Christians the belief that Jesus Christ is the incarnate son of God.
I’m also glad that at this one time of the year they also acknowledge the reality and necessity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in God’s marvelous plan of redemption for the world.
However, it is still true that most Protestant Christians have a faulty understanding of the role of the Virgin Mary in God’s plan. I certainly did before I became a Catholic, and like many converts it was “the Mary thing” that held me back for a long time.
To be fair, most non-Catholic Christians really don’t give the question much thought. They assume that Mary was just an ordinary girl who gave birth to the Son of God. They also believe that she went on to have normal marital relations with Joseph and had more children. That’s all.
Sure, she was specially chosen by God, but if she had said “No” to the angel, God probably would have chosen someone else. Well, maybe, but not quite and not really.
I can only speak for myself, but I think my own understanding as a Protestant was pretty typical. I considered Mary to be a channel or sort of a conduit for God to come into the world.
This went along with a Docetic understanding of Jesus. Jesus was kind of like Superman who came from another world. He could walk on water, and his feet never really touched the ground. Not really, or if they did, then they didn’t get very dirty. Of course, I would not have articulated it this way, but that was what I concluded based on the Bible sermons and Sunday School stories I had been taught.
But this is not good enough. Jesus was very God of very God, begotten not made, but he was also very Man of very Man. However, the alternative to the Docetic Jesus was clearly the Arian or Apollinarian Jesus in which Jesus was fully man, but not fully divine.
Then, in becoming a Catholic it became clear that to have a fully orthodox Christology one had to also have a fully historical understanding of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It’s there in that verse from Galatians: “In the fullness of time God sent forth his Son born of a woman.”
Not born “through” a woman or “in” a woman but “of” a woman. In other words, he took his human flesh from Mary his mother. This means he looked like Mary. Really.
And that’s why we call Mary “Theotokos” or “God Bearer” or “Mother of God”–and this too is Scriptural for Elizabeth at the Visitation calls the Virgin Mary “Mother of my Lord.”
So as you celebrate Christmas today, don’t forget to thank God for the Blessed Virgin and to say, “Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us now and in the hour of our death, AMEN”