Mary : The Unwed Mother

Ninglun Hanghal
The name of Mary – mother of Jesus will once again be heard in Churches and across the world in celebration of the birth of Christ, the prince of Peace. Mother Mary will be remembered, her sacrifice recalled, prayer will be held in her name, she will be praised and put on a high pedestal. The Christmas story will have Mary’s pregnancy, her delivery, her journey.
Literally the mother of God. Considered the holiest, most blessed amongst women, she is the chosen.  Most significantly Mary is referred to as the virgin – a woman of high moral value who is not and has not been with any man in her life.
According to the chapter of Luke in the Bible, Angel Gabriel appeared before Mary and told her “ Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women”. When the troubled Mary asked what this is all about the Angel told her not to be afraid as she has found favor with the Lord to bear a son who will be called Jesus – the son of God.
Though initially she questioned saying how can she bear a child when she is a ‘virgin’, being a believer and strong one at that, she was eventually convinced. She accepted what is commanded and expected of her.
During Christmas, Mary’s story will be one of the focus subjects and popular topics of preaching. But all recollection of what she went through or preaching on/of Mary did not go beyond her being the mother of Jesus, a virgin, a pious woman who does not question God’s command.
If we contextualize and look deeper into the life of Mary and her journey, what are the insights we can see ? What could be the message in Mary’s life that we can think of ? What example is God trying to relay to us through the life-story of mother Mary.
Mary is pregnant without getting married. She doesn’t know, or rather doesn’t question who impregnated her. The only thing she knows is that it is the work of the unseen Almighty.
But why did God choose Mary the ‘virgin’ who is unmarried ? That too a betrothed. At that point of time Mary was engaged to a man named Joseph, a common man. God, who is supposed to be the father, is not marrying her but asking her to give birth to a child whom God claims is his son.
There is no mention of Mary getting married in the Bible. Literally Mary is an unwed mother. Bearing a child without marrying- a child out of wedlock. Moreover, the child in her womb does not belong to her.
Mary’s story is about those unwed mothers, whom the society looks at as a ‘sinful’ woman. Outcaste, stigmatized. They are considered unclean and un-holy. A pregnant unmarried woman is unthinkable in the society. It is a sin.  
Think about a large number of women who are bearing a child out of wedlock. Women who are left by the man who impregnated them. There are a number of women who are pregnant but the man is not ready to accept them. Many such women become single mothers. Many could not or were not allowed to even claim their own child.
Very often we come across reports of new born babies abandoned. A new born baby found in a drainage or near a bush.
The point one wants to make here is the case of unwed mothers, single mothers in the society. Do we accept them as they are ? Or do we pretend to accept them with a tinge of stigma. If mother Mary, who gave birth to a child without marriage be considered respectable and of high moral value, can the common women, who were forced to live a life of shame, be free of their ‘sin’.
Mother Mary was accepted by Joseph, her fiancée. He did not question or doubt her. Imagine a man accepting a pregnant woman as a wife in our present society. The role of Joseph is commendable.
Every year we celebrate Christmas, with the story and life of Mary as one central point in the Christmas theory. The point centralizing on ‘virginity’, holiness, purity, moral value, the non-questioning characteristics of Mary.
The question we can ponder this Christmas:  Is the Bible trying to say that being pregnant without a formal marriage is not a “sin”?  That Mary who was impregnated–is no longer a virgin for Joseph, and that ‘virginity’, which is considered a prerequisite for women for marriage, is not a necessity or mandatory? Why did God choose ‘the virgin’ and some-one already engaged to a man, to bear him a child?  To say those ‘un-wed’ should be accepted by society as they are? That, they can remarry and are as pure and holy as any other women?
The usual most popular argument would be that Mary’s story and life is a Biblical one, and an extra- ordinary one at that. A parable, an illustration of an ideal perfect woman. That it cannot and should not be linked to an ordinary human society or context. The question is whether Mary or Joseph are supposed to be as human as those followers of Jesus.  And not super humans or some imaginary characters.
 The more mother Mary is a parable shouldn’t it be contextualized and take the examples set in the context and relate it to the present situation in the society.
Christmas sermons, the Biblical teaching, the preaching centering on Mary – the unwed mother of Jesus can go beyond the ‘purity’ or a no-questioning virtue of a woman.
 It should center around what the parable is all about. The story of Mary is a case that calls for a re-think about our judgment of women, single and unwed. To contextualize and think about those abandoned women who gave birth to a child without marriage. Let us remember those many women who are unwed, who are single parents and are not accepted in the society as the ideal women.