Well, once again, December is upon us and the Christmas rush is, no doubt, already under way. Soon we’ll be comfortably sliding into our traditions, doing what we have always done. Turkey. Presents. T.V. Mince pies. Christmas cake. Christmas Trees. Advent calendars. The list could go on. These are comfortable and cosy. They wrap around us like an old, well-worn blanket. And yet, as the very centre of Christmas lies a baby who refuses to sit comfortably in with what we expect.
It has been said that Jesus comforts the disturbed and disturbs the comfortable.
This Christmas season we’ll be looking at the Christmas account in Luke. One of the things which stands out in Luke’s story is the remarkable role played by women. Zechariah is struck dumb through his lack of faith (Lk 1:20), while his wife, Elizabeth, is ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’ (Lk 1:41) and greets Mary as the ‘mother of my Lord.’ (Lk 1:43).
Joseph stands in the shadows, while Mary’s response to the Angel Gabriel’s news with obedient faith: ‘I am the Lord’s servant, may it be to me according to your word.’ (Lk 1:38).
Simeon may be happy to see the infant Jesus in the temple, but it is Anne who goes and tells everyone (Lk 2:38).
The world into which Jesus was born was a world in which women were second class citizens with hardly any rights. In the Jewish world, of the time, women were considered inferior to men in every way. The Jewish Talmud read ‘He that talks much with women brings evil upon himself and neglects the duty of the Law and at last will inherit Gehenna’ (Mish Aboth 1:5); ‘Every man who teaches his daughter Torah is as if he taught her promiscuity’ (Mish Sotoh 3:4) and ‘All we can expect from them [i.e. women] is that they bring up our children and keep us from sin’ (Bab Yebamoth 63a).
If anything the Greek and Roman world had an even lower opinion of women, depicting them as:
basically ineducable and empty-headed; vengeful, dangerous and responsible for men’s sins; mendacious, treacherous and unreliable; fickle; … incapable of moderation or spontaneous goodness; at their best in the dark; interested only in sex – unless they are with their own husbands, in which case they would rather talk. In short, women are one and all ‘a set of vultures’, the ‘most beastly’ of all the beasts on land or sea, and marriage is at best a necessary evil.’
It was into world that Jesus was born. Luke’s account of the leading role of women was a cultural explosion. No wonder Mary sang of Jesus, ‘He has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly.’ (Lk 1:52). But Mary must never have dreamt of the revolution which had begun at Christmas. Thanks to Jesus, Paul would later write:
‘There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.’ Gal 3:28
In Jesus the divisions of race, gender or social status are gone. Prejudice or chauvinism should have disappeared. Any sense of inferiority, any sense of superiority, has been destroyed.
Jesus, this Christmas, and at anytime, comes to comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable. Where do you need to be disturbed? Where is Jesus trying to challenge you this Christmas?
Be ready this Christmas to welcome Jesus the revolutionary!
God bless you all,