The earliest references to Mary in the New Testament are slim but they get expanded. Paul mentions in Galatians 4:4 that Jesus was “born of a woman” which emphasizes the humanity of Jesus birth just as in the same passage Jesus Jewishness is emphasized through the phrase, Jesus was “born under the law.” The miraculous character of Jesus birth is not the point in Paul.
The gospels have varying depictions of Mary. Little if any attention to the miraculous birth is found in Mark 3:31-35; 6:1-6. A reader could almost draw a slightly negative depiction of Mary in the Gospel of Mark. When we come to Matthew and Luke both include the miraculous birth.
It is Luke who brings Mary front and center. In fact Luke is the only gospel to have Mary depicted with virtues we hear about in regard to Jesus, namely of addressing the hungry and showing mercy. In addition Luke notes that far beyond the miraculous birth Mary is “blessed” because she served God (Luke 1:38) and believed (Luke 1:45).
To complete the depictions of Mary in the gospels we need to note that the Gospel of John only refers to Jesus mother and never refers to her by her name, Mary. She is mentioned in John 2:1-5, 12; 6:42; 19:25. In this last mention of Jesus’ mother in the Gospel of John she is invited into the home of the beloved disciple (see also John 13:23ff.).
As one scholar has noted, there is little talk of Mary during the Christian liturgical year, in fact she is “almost invisible.” He goes on to note, “…there is a dramatic story of her watching her son die. Is there anything more powerful? What more dramatic way is there to connect with the story of human loss and sorrow than through the sorrow of a parent who has lost a child.”
Mary was there from the beginning to the end however you wish to tell the story. Luke provides more traditions and stories, as well as theological integration and imagination, regarding the annunciation, the visit of two women (Mary and Elizabeth) from their very different set of circumstances, and Jesus early experience in the temple.
It seems especially important this Christmas in light of the Sandy Hook (Newtown) tragedy to be reminded of mothers—and of course fathers—as we all try to come to terms with the biblical stories and their relationship to our contemporary experiences of life, death, and life beyond death.