Categories
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.

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.

Categories
Theology

The Incarnation (Spoken Word)

HT: Justin Taylor

Categories
Life

The Wexford Carol

The Wexford Carol is a 12th century Irish hymn and is one of the oldest surviving European Christmas carols. It tells the simple Nativity story in Bethlehem.

(If you cannot watch it in this window, please click on the “Watch on YouTube” link that will appear.)

Good people all, this Christmas time,
Consider well and bear in mind
What our good God for us has done
In sending his beloved son
With Mary holy we should pray,
To God with love this Christmas Day
In Bethlehem upon that morn,
There was a blessed Messiah born

The night before that happy tide
The noble Virgin and her guide
Were long time seeking up and down
To find a lodging in the town
But mark right well what came to pass
From every door repelled, alas
As was foretold, their refuge all
Was but a humble ox’s stall

Near Bethlehem did shepherds keep
Their flocks of lambs and feeding sheep
To whom God’s angel did appear
Which put the shepherds in great fear
Arise and go, the angels said
To Bethlehem, be not afraid
For there you’ll find, this happy morn
A princely babe, sweet Jesus, born

With thankful heart and joyful mind
The shepherds went the babe to find
And as God’s angel had foretold
They did our Saviour Christ behold
Within a manger he was laid
And by his side a virgin maid
Attending on the Lord of Life
Who came on earth to end all strife

There were three wise men from afar
Directed by a glorious star
And on they wandered night and day
Until they came where Jesus lay
And when they came unto that place
Where our beloved Messiah lay
They humbly cast them at his feet
With gifts of gold and incense sweet.

HT: Justin Taylor

Categories
Life

If you only go to Bethlehem, you haven’t gone far enough.

Have you ever wondered why so many artists (who aren’t Evangelical Christians) have recorded classic Christmas hymns praising Jesus? Neil Diamond belting out “Silent Night.”  Mariah Carey performing “O Holy Night.”  Natalie Cole giving a stirring rendition of “The First Noel.”  The list goes on and on.

Well, here’s a possible answer to my question:

A baby Jesus isn’t very intimidating, but a Jesus who dies on the cross for your sins and miraculously rises from the dead and demands honor, love, and repentance is.

Don’t get me wrong.  Jesus was just as much God at birth as he was on the cross.  But if we have learned anything from Ricky Bobby, we’ve learned that praying (or in this case, singing) to an “8 lb. 6 oz. newborn infant Jesus…just a little infant, so cuddly” is not awe-inspiring.  Praying to the God of the universe who went to the cross for all the times you trampled upon his glory, however, is.

First John 3:8 says, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”  That means that little baby Jesus was born to kill sin.  The only way Jesus could make this happen would be to move on from his manger in Bethlehem toward Golgotha in Jerusalem, where he died on the cross and then triumphantly rose from the dead to conquer sin, Satan, death, and hell.

If you love the classic hymns of the season, sing them with honor and reverence and praise for the Baby who grew up into a Man and died and rose again.  Jesus didn’t stay in Bethlehem.  Neither should we.