Not sure if this is the right board or if I should have taken it to the Protestant-Orthodox board, but I was just wondering, what exactly is the point of venerating the Theotokos so much?
Depends on what a person thinks is "so much". Relative to everything else in the Orthodox Church, it's not that much. On the other hand, there isn't any other saint we hymn everyday unless it is the particular saint for which the parish is named.
I find nothing wrong with it, but I also see nothing to justify how essential it is to us without resorting to really stretched, deductive logic in order to do so. In other words, I see no "smoking gun" argument to justify the amount of veneration we pay to her. In regards to my debates with Protestants who inquire about why I venerate the Theotokos, the conversation usually just ends at me debunking anti-veneration myths, showing that there is nothing wrong with venerating her, but not being able to prove or give a really strong reason as to why we have to or why it is so important.
In my opinion, it's better to not argue with 'Protestants' about the Theotokos, or really any other aspect of our faith. The term 'Protestants' is set off by quotation marks because the word can be used to refer to a wide range of semi-Christian beliefs, and not to Protestants proper. Those who really are Protestants will have a basic belief in the Trinity, and will likely understand the importance it. A Trinitarian Christian may be able to understand the Orthodox veneration of the Theotokos more than a person without. That's just my opinion though, and some are better at arguing / debating without alienating the other person. It's my own tendency to be far too blunt, and may win in a debate in fact, but make an enemy of the Church, which is really a loss. Perhaps you are better at convincing without alienating. Seems like people who are converted to Orthodoxy from Protestantism can be more effective in convincing Protestants of the truth of our faith because they understand the mindset and terminology of Protestants. I really have no clue what a lot of American Christians are really talking about, so it's more difficult to really address the underpinnings of their theological view.
With that said, if you go back and look at the heresies which have assailed the Church over time, the discussions that took place during the Nestorian 'Christotokos' controversy and eventual declaration of it as heresy show why she is Panaghia and not anything else. It boils down to knowing who Jesus Christ, is, was, and ever shall be. If she is successfully attacked, then it is as Asteriktos (hope I finally spelled that correctly) said, our faith is in vain.
These sort of attacks on the Theotokos led to Roman Catholics developing the dogma of the Immaculate Conception, which as you probably know, doesn't refer to Jesus Christ, but rather to the Virgin Mary.
Many people who are not familiar with Orthodox theology are basically arguing against Roman Catholic dogma, not against Jesus Christ Himself. This is one of those underpinnings that may not be overtly stated when you are discussing theology.
Christ took flesh from her, and the importance of that is explained in detail in "On the Incarnation" by St. Athanasios. Who she is important precisely because of her unique role in our Salvation. This seems to be a big sticking point for a Protestant (a Lutheran) from what I've observed. If they can get over that hurdle, then they are on their way to understanding Who Christ Is.
This is reflected the Vesperal hymn on the Feast of the Nativity of the Theotokos:
Although by the will of God barren women have brought forth illustrious children, yet Mary, with divine magnificence, hath outshone all that have been born; for she, who was marvellously born of a childless mother, herself past nature bare in the flesh the God of all from a seedless womb. She is the only gateway of the Only-begotten Son of God, Who, passing through this gate, kept it shut; and having ordered all things wisely, as He Himself saw fit, He has wrought salvation for all men.
Today the barren gates open, and the virgin gate of God comes forth. Today grace begins to bear fruit, making manifest to the world the Mother of God, through women the things of the earth are joined with the heavens, for the salvation of our souls.