It seems like every year around this time I see and hear criticism of a popular Christmas song. “Mary, did you know? Of course she did, stop asking!” Some people really love to hate this song. It might not be my favorite Christmas song or carol, but I do think there’s a lot more to the lyrics than many realize.
There’s no argument based on the biblical accounts that Mary didn’t know that her “baby boy would save our sons and daughters,” etc. Of course she knew most of the things that the songwriter asks her, but I don’t think that’s the point. It’s a little ironic that such dismissive criticism as expressed in the meme above, for all the attempts at intellectual superiority, exposes a lack of critical thinking about the lyrics and an apparent ignorance of the concept of a rhetorical question.
When you look at it as if the questions are meant to be rhetorical, you can see that it’s actually a creative way to get another perspective of the incarnation of Christ. It is not literally questioning whether or not Mary actually knew, rather it is a clever way of saying “Mary, since you obviously knew that ‘the sleeping Child you’re holding is the Great I Am’, what was that like? What was it like to know that this Child you just gave birth to is God Incarnate, the Savior of the World?” It’s pointing to the incomprehensible wonder of God with us, Immanuel. None of us have ever had or will ever have that experience- clearly only Mary (and Joseph to a lesser extent) ever did- so it’s natural to wonder what that was like. If the asking brings us to ponder the mystery of the One who was “born that man no more may die,” I for one say, let us keep asking “Mary, did you know?”.