Let Her Lead Life

Interlude: The Women of Christmas

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.


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.

Commentary Life

Jesus Healed Body and Soul

It struck me this week reading Luke 9 that everywhere Jesus went, as he taught people about God and his kingdom, that he also met physical needs.

Sometimes it was giving food. Sometimes healing. Sometimes exorcism. Sometimes physical touch. Sometimes simple friendship around the table.

I’ve always known this of course, but perhaps because of the social and cultural moment we’re in, it hit me differently.

It was Luke 9:11 this time. “He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing.”

He healed those who needed healing.

We never see Jesus saying, “Oh, you need physical help? Well my real ministry is preaching the gospel.” He never once retorts, “Oh, you need a tender touch? Well, I only came to tell you about God, not show him to you.”

No, Jesus came to tell and show who God was and what he was up to.

To Jesus, healing body and soul went hand-in-hand.

He’d forgive your sin. Then he’d tell you to stand up and walk for the first time.

Jesus brought God’s kingdom. And to Jesus, the kingdom of God meant freedom (see Isaiah 61 and Luke 4). Freedom was God’s gift to humanity. And physical healing was a demonstration of spiritual healing that could not be seen. Physical healing was a precursor of the great and final healing and restoration that would come on the last Day.

It was a signpost of that day when there would be no more need for physical healing.

Of course, Jesus didn’t heal every single person in Israel. He still doesn’t. The kingdom has come and also is yet to come.

It’s hard for us to comprehend this and deal with the tension, but we must.

Especially in our churches and ministries. And as we deal with the tension, the way Jesus ministered should also inform our priorities. As we preach the gospel and teach and train, are we also actively seeking to bring real, tangible, physical healing to the hurting, sick, oppressed, broken, and forgotten? This can mean anything from providing food and backpacks to helping groups and communities overcome and breakdown injustices.

This isn’t a social gospel. It’s not a liberal agenda.

It’s the exact thing Jesus did.

I can hear an objection and it sounds like this, “But Paul!”

Most Christian (particularly evangelical) ministries love Paul because of his (seemingly) propositional and theological approach to ministry.

As in, if we follow Paul, we just get to bypass the kind of ministry Jesus did. We’ll just focus on the spiritual and leave the physical to the hospitals and private schools and soup kitchens.

But remember it was Paul who said, “All they asked was that we should continue to remember the poor, the very thing I had been eager to do all along” (Gal. 2:10).

It’s clear Paul’s ministry was to expand the gospel’s reach around the Roman Empire where it had no presence. His letters don’t expound a full theology or practice of serving the poor, but they weren’t designed to do that. Instead, it’s sprinkled in, like in Galatians 2. And it’s clear Paul’s ministry, at least in some sense, imitated Jesus’.

Jesus didn’t have a “preaching ministry” and a “healing ministry.” He didn’t emphasize one over the other. He sought to bring God’s healing and freedom to men and women, from the inside-out.

If he is truly our Master and our model, then shouldn’t we seek to follow him in his methods?


Day 17: The Fall and Rising of Many

“Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel,
and for a sign that is opposed…so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” (
Luke 2:34-35)

Put yourself in Mary and Joseph’s shoes. At Jesus’ dedication in the temple, a sweet old man says, “Your Son will light up the dark world and show people what God is like and why they need him and he will be their Savior. And yet, some people will oppose him. So much so that this is going to be like a sword thrust through your gut, Mary. And, oh yeah, your heart is going to break, too.”

Ouch. Not what you expected, huh? But it’s true. Jesus brings some down and raises others up. He is a light that divides. When God comes to town in the person of Jesus, the truth about you and me and everyone else will be exposed. That’s what light does. It reveals what’s there. Some people hate this and it causes them to stumble over Jesus.

How do you know if you are rising or falling because of Jesus? If you sense how low you are and that you are nothing, be comforted, God delights in those who are low. If you run to the light of Christ not mainly because of all the darkness in the world around you—and there is darkness—but because of the darkness in you, be comforted. These are the ones who rise. God in his grace is drawing you to himself and humbling you.

On the other hand, if you are impressed with your morality or religious accomplishments or your occupational ambitions, God is opposed to you. If you think that you are “generally good” and not in need of God’s gracious intervention, the gospel will be a stumbling block to you. Who Jesus is and what he came to do will mean nothing to you.

How do you move from falling to rising? Like Simeon, humbly take your eyes off yourself and fix your eyes on Jesus. Then you will sing Simeon’s song with him: “Now you are letting your servant depart in peace…for my eyes have seen your salvation!”

Scripture and Reflection Questions
Read Luke 2:22-35

  1. Have your eyes seen Jesus as your salvation? If not, why not? If so, are you increasingly seeing his majesty and beauty?
  2. Read. v. 32. Jesus is a light to the Gentiles—the nations. In what ways can you engage in shining his light to the nations?
  3. Read. v. 35 and Hebrews 4:12-13. What has God been revealing about your heart? What areas of your life are you trying to keep from being exposed to other people?
  4. Throughout the Gospels, it’s actually the religious people who stumble over Jesus. What religious activities or personal morality have actually kept you from  Jesus?

From We Look for Light: Readings and Reflections for Advent


Day 16: Peace for Me?

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:13-14)

The Christmas season often seems to bring anything but peace. We rush to stores, to parties, to pageants, to worship services. During the time of year when we raise our glasses and toast to, “Peace on earth and good will to men!” we often find ourselves asking, “Can there really be peace for me?”

Could it be that our busyness during the Christmas season is a search for peace? Could it be that we believe, somewhere deep within us, that in our pursuit of material things, friendship, good food, sentimental feelings, generosity, morality, or something else we will eventually fill a void? Could it be that we know we are not alright and that we need something—anything—to make us right?

On that first Christmas night, in the fields of Judea, not too far from the town of Bethlehem, shepherds were watching their flocks when out of nowhere, a heavenly host began to sing. “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased.” Here is the announcement of the ages: peace is available! Now, peace is not the absence of any stress or conflict or physical tumult. Peace is being restored to loving relationship with your Creator. How does this happen? It’s not something we can purchase or achieve. It’s something we receive through what this baby Messiah in Bethlehem will do many years later. Baby Jesus did not stay in the manger in Bethlehem. He grew up to be a man who went to a cross in Jerusalem to die for sinners to reconcile them to God. There, on that cross, he himself becomes our peace. So there will be peace for anyone who trusts him and loves him. Even for you.

Scripture and Reflection Questions
Read Luke 2:8-20

  1. Where do you look for peace?
  2. Imagine you were one of the shepherds. How do you think you would have felt hearing this message?
  3. It says that the shepherds “went with haste” (v. 16) after they heard this message. How might you run to Jesus with haste each day as you remind yourself of the good news?
  4. Read v. 19. Why did Mary treasure up these things? Do you treasure the things you read and know about the Messiah?
  5. Do you have peace with God? How might you turn to him today and trust him for peace?

From We Look for Light: Readings and Reflections for Advent


Day 14: The End of Fear

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people…
to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear.” (
Luke 1:66, 74)

There is a popular Christmas song that unwittingly instills fear in the hearts of little ones. You know it well. It goes like this: “You better watch out. You better not cry. You better not pout. I’m telling you why…He’s making a list, he’s checking it twice, gonna find out who’s naughty or nice…He sees you when you’re sleeping. He knows if you’re awake. He knows if you’ve been bad or good. So be good for goodness’ sake.”

You better watch! Be good for goodness’ sake! Billions of people in this world are motivated by fear. They fear their boss so they work hard. They fear their parents so they make curfew. They fear their spouse so they don’t contradict them. They fear jail time so they don’t cheat on their taxes. Most of our obedience comes from fear of consequences.

But when Jesus comes to town, it’s the end of fear. You don’t need to watch out because he’s making a list and checking it twice. No, Jesus actually delivers you from the things that should really scare you: sin, death, and hell. But wait, there’s more. He not only delivers you from those terrible things, he becomes your new Master who loves you and accepts you. You are no longer a slave, motivated by fear, but free to serve him whole-heartedly with joy.

Now, what about when you slip up and become afraid? It will happen from time to time. Turn your eyes back to Jesus. Again and again and again. Reflect on the fact that no one was reluctant to approach Jesus for fear of being rejected. When you read about this man in the Scriptures, you get the sense that even if you fail him, he’d forgive you. He was always firm, yet kind. He was always truthful, yet never arrogant. He had no sin or shortcoming, yet he was incredibly humble. Don’t you want a Master like that?

Scripture and Reflection Questions
Read Luke 1:66-80

  1. Read. v. 74. How were Israel’s former “masters” (Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Rome. etc.) harsh and cruel? How have your old masters been harsh and cruel?
  2. Are you afraid of Jesus? Why or why not?
  3. How does Jesus show himself to be a merciful, gracious Master to you?
  4. Read v. 79. Have you experienced peace by knowing Jesus? If not, why not?
  5. Who in your life would benefit from hearing about how Master Jesus has saved you from fear?

From We Look for Light: Readings and Reflections for Advent