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Let Her Lead Life

Interlude: The Women of Christmas

History tells us men should announce the good news of God’s kingdom. But God doesn’t play by those rules.

This was supposed to be the final post to wrap up this series. I’ve tried to write it about a dozen times, but can’t seem to find the right way to end it.

Maybe because it’s not supposed to end.

I’ll write an official conclusion to this series sometime next week (I hope!). Still, look for more posts in the future without any particular regularity or progression. There’s too much I’ve written about that needs more attention. And there are other texts and topics I haven’t even touched on yet.

One particular text that comes to mind is Jesus’ birth narrative. Specifically, something struck me as I reflected yesterday on Mary’s visit to Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-45):

At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth.

Mary entered Zechariah’s home and she greeted…Elizabeth.

It’s not Elizabeth’s home. It’s her husband’s. She’s “just” a woman, after all. But Mary greets her. Of course, I’m sure Mary greeted Zechariah, too. It would have been incredibly disrespectful not to.

But Luke emphasizes this particular encounter for a reason.

Why?

Explicitly, we learn that Elizabeth’s baby (John) leaps for joy at the sound of Mary’s voice (vv 41, 45) because she is carrying the Messiah. This is one way to show that John is filled with the Spirit to prepare the way for Jesus.

It also reminds us that when the right time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman (not just appearing out of no where), to redeem his children (see Gal 4:4-5).

And it’s right after Elizabeth’s encouraging words about Mary’s son that Mary bursts out into song. Her Magnificat (see Luke 1:46-55) is one of the most eloquent and theologically-rich expressions of the coming of God’s kingdom you’ll find in Scripture. It’s as if it finally sinks in that God is up to something special in her life and in the world.

All of that is amazing.

Yet I think there’s also another implicit, unstated reason Luke includes this interaction. I base it on the overall trajectory of his gospel and his special focus on women.

Remember, the angel appeared to Zechariah earlier in Luke 1, announcing the conception and coming birth of John. But Zechariah didn’t believe the news. So his speech was taken away until John was born.

And no disrespect to Joseph at all, but he’s a background character in Luke chapter 1. Unlike with Zechariah, the angel doesn’t appear to Joseph, the man, but to Mary. (Joseph plays a bigger role in chapter 2, but still never says a word.)

Then at the end of the gospel, Luke records that women surround Jesus as he dies (23:27). Women are the first witness of the resurrection (24:1-12). Women share the news with the rest of the male disciples, who refuse to believe at first (24:11).

Bracketed in between the beginning and end of Jesus’ life is the acknowledgment that Jesus had women disciples who helped fund his ministry (8:1-3). Jesus also empowered women, like Mary Magdalene, to learn his ways as full-fledged disciple (10:38-42).

History tells us men should get the spotlight in announcing the good news of God’s kingdom. But God doesn’t play by those rules.

Then we have Acts, part two of Luke’s gospel. Women are there when the Spirit comes at Pentecost. Women like Lydia and Priscilla play an important role in the early church.

Here’s the thing. We know that the Kingdom of God brings about the great reversal in human society. God circumvents the authority structures of the world. He exalts the poor, the hurting, the enslaved, the prisoner (4:18-19). He calls those who are suffering and needy “blessed” (6:20-26). Mary praises God for all this in her song.

The great reversal is another reason, I think, why Mary and Elizabeth stand center stage as Messiah is about to come onto the scene.

History tells us men should get the spotlight in announcing the good news of God’s kingdom.

But God doesn’t play by those rules.

We spend countless hours debating whether or not women can give a 30-minute Bible talk in a Sunday worship gathering or serve on a church leadership team.

Meanwhile, it’s not the men, but the women of Christmas who preach to us the wonders of God’s love in the incarnation of his Son.


Featured image: Marcus Wallis on Unsplash.