Question, what would you buy for your granny on her birthday, that is assuming you still had one? Hankies, a cardie, bottle of gin?


Christians have long thought of the Virgin Mary as a loving and lovable matriarch. As Jesus’ mum she had a particularly difficult time explaining the pregnancy, only Joseph believed her. And the life as a carpenter’s wife bringing up a large family in the back of beyond was tough to say the least.


Then one of the kids wanted to become a rabbi, picking up astonishing learning from a very young age and even at the age of 12 on the annual family trip to Jerusalem able to converse on equal terms with the senior leaders of his Jewish faith.


Nor was it enough to stay at home and take over his father’s carpentry business. Jesus becomes a wandering teacher, apparently able to do astounding miracles along the way. People flocked to hear him and be healed.


The family thought Jesus was nuts. The Gospels tell us how they came to take him home, presumably to be cared for in a back room until this religious mania wore off. They never managed it.


You know the end of the story, how Mary saw him fall foul of the religious establishment and put to death by the Romans in the usual unpleasant manner. With almost his last breath Jesus had asked his best friend St John to look after her, and care for her he did. But what a story and what a life.


Tradition has it that she and St Luke were part of St John’s household in Ephesus where they all ended up, and Mary told him all the stories about Jesus’ birth and early years, which Luke then wrote down in his Gospel.


And after that? A great welcome in heaven, and a kind of mother figure to Christians of all kinds.


But back to the presents. Today we celebrate Mary’s birthday. What do you think she would like from us all who follow Jesus?


Like most grannies I think she would care little for stuff. What she would really like is to see the family making an effort to get on with each other and stay in touch. For us to work hard and make something of ourselves, using the hand we are dealt wisely and courageously, as she did.


Like most grannies she would care how we treated people. To quote the late great Diana Rigg, ‘You can be extremely truthful and forthright and destructive with language. If you control the language you are in control of life.”


Like most grannies Mary would not care less how much money we had made in life, rather she would care deeply about the kind of people we have become.


Like most grannies she would keep sharp eye on the ups and downs of our lives.


And yes, I expect she has a quiet word with her son about each one of us. But always for good!