The problem of Mary is made more difficult by the fact that Lutherans stand between Rome which has made too much of her (contrary to her own words) and Protestantism which has ignored her (contrary to Scripture). Lutherans have a rich Marian tradition but we seldom have the guts to face up to it. We give her grudging honor and place because, since we honor Scripture, we must... but our hearts are seldom in it... The issue becomes more pointed when you come to the Fourth Sunday in Advent and Mary is all over the place.
We call her Mary rather casually but our history is to address her as the Blessed Virgin Mary. We call her blessed because her own words prophetically point to this address as the intention of God in choosing her of low estate whose willing trust and consent to His will are both her humility and her glory. All generations shall call her blessed... not because of Scripture demands it but because to honor her in this way is to honor the God who chose her. To give her this glory is to give glory to Him who is her glory, the fruit of her womb, Jesus.
The Confessions call her semper virgo -- ever virgin -- and Luther even late in life refers to her immaculate conception. Modern day Lutherans eschew this as a medieval anachronism which we gladly ditch. If you think this, try reading Martin Luther's Commentary on the Magnificat and see if these are merely eccentricities of the past hanging on in our Confessions and in Luther. In addition the festivals of Mary were kept on the calendar (when many were not).
Hymns well describe her place, without the title but with the role as queen of heaven, "O higher than the cherubim, more glorious than the seraphim, lead their praises, Alleluia. Thou bearer of the eternal Word, most gracious, magnify the Lord... Alleluia!" She is the "Most Highly Favored Lady" of all Christendom and she is the leader of our praises, the first who pondered in her heart what it meant that the Son she would bear would be the Son of God in flesh and blood. Her trust and consent to the Lord's will is the model for all Christians to follow.
Her own contribution to the hymnody of the Church is the Magnificat. Surely there is no hymn so eloquent in its humility and so uplifting in its glory than these words of Mary!
And Mary said,
“My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things and the rich he has sent empty away.
He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy,
As he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
Hail, Mary, full of grace! The Lord is with thee! Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus! Can we at least learn to be comfortable in saying of her what Scripture says -- not with the duty of something required but with the heart of appreciation for her place and role as the Theotokos -- the Mother of God?
In preschool chapel we were going over the Christmas story with the large creche and I asked the 3s and 4s to tell me who the various figures were. When I got to Mary, one little girl said with great enthusiasm. "She is the Mother of God!" Ah, out of the mouths of babes! Would that we all could say with the same wonder and enthusiasm. "Mary, Blessed Virgin Mother of God!"