Welcome to the Advent series I am writing for 2015. Over the last few years I have really fallen in love with the celebration of Advent and I am excited to write about this season over the next four weeks. These posts, while finding their root in themes surrounding the coming of Christ, are not limited to simple Christmasy things. Today with the inspiration of Mary, mother of Jesus, I want to dive into a discussion about femininity in reference to the Divine Nature.
It is very easy in our culture to get caught up in the pageantry of Christmas. Often I feel like we miss monumental moments that seem insignificant to the masses, the small moments where whispers can be heard as clearly as shouts, because we only have ears for the grandiose, but take a second to think about Mary and the life she led. She was from an average family in first century Roman controlled Israel. From all that I have heard, she was meek and mild and all that stuff, but what made her stand out? The thing that stands out to me is her wildly obedient heart towards God. She was visited by an angel speaking of the way she would be impregnated by the Spirit of God which isn’t a normal thing for angels to talk about and she didn’t really freak out… I don’t know many women who would just go along with that… Especially not in the first century where unwed pregnancy could cost you your life, but she let her yes to God be louder than the fear that was all around her. She allowed her life to be fully given to birthing a hope that was greater than anyone truly understood or perceived. It is no wonder to me that the Catholic Church holds her in such high esteem.
Mary was given the task of carrying the fullness of God to term. The fullness of His presence was inside of her… I remember as a child, my Mom, my brother Nathan and myself all sang a song for my aunt who was pregnant during the Christmas season. We sang the song “Breath of Heaven” by Amy Grant; and I remember for the first time grasping the weight of the sacrifice that Mary made, but also the weight of the glory that she carried. Think of the greatness of God in Jesus and then imagine a friend that you may have had who was pregnant. The strength that is displayed through the example of Mary is incredible, yet in all of this, my mind has moved beyond the past and to the present.
I grew up with a mother who is a strong woman, and she is one of five sisters from a family of strong women. I’ve also always had a lot of friends who were girls, and those girls have become amazing, strong women. In thinking about Mary my mind has begun to process the culture of sexism, the way it has influenced faith communities, and how frustrated that makes me. For a long time in my life I have been led to believe that the Divine Nature is purely masculine. Since God is called Father, Jesus His son was a man that lived, and the Holy Spirit is never really referred to as a person, but if ever discussed, masculine pronouns are used. I am not saying that I believe these notions are all together wrong, and I am not saying that Mary is God, but I am proposing that we take a moment together and reimagine a world where both the masculine and feminine are affirmed by the Divine Nature of God!
The Bible begins with a beautiful poem (we generally refer to it as the Creation Story). In this poem, before the story of Adam and Eve, in Genesis it says that God created both man and woman in His image. BOTH MADE IN THE IMAGE OF GOD. I think this is more significant than many people want to admit. The fact that women aren’t some sort of cosmic afterthought but that God created them with intention at the same moment as the man is quite significant. With this truth, it only makes sense for every man of faith to advocate for the equal treatment, and honor of women.
If I, as a man of faith, acknowledged that women were created in the image of God, yet supported a system that oppressed women, I would knowingly be supporting a system that is ok with oppressing the image of God. Some may think this is a radical statement, that I am taking it too far, but think about the world we live in. Malala Yousafzai was shot because she wanted girls to be able to receive an education, and in many countries girls are regularly sexually abused with no repercussions for their abusers, to say that there is equality for women in todays society would be incredibly ignorant. These gross injustices should not ever be seen as acceptable to a person who claims to believe in Jesus.
With all of that in mind, I have been really encouraged by the growing number of female voices in the church. For too many years men have led the church in a somewhat sexist direction to a place where women have often been treated as less than. I am glad to see this changing and I am so blessed by the church that I attend where women are valued and given equal voice to men. I believe that women have something to bring to the community of faith that we all need and I think men need to open their hearts and minds to the wisdom our mothers, sisters, and daughters have to share with us. May we throw off the chains that have held women down to see them fully alive and free in the reflection of God that they were made to be. To the mothers, sisters, and daughters, please hear me: I HONOR YOU! I BLESS YOU! I NEED YOU! More that that, I WANT YOU HERE! YOU ARE MADE IN GOD’S IMAGE! BE FREE TO SHARE YOUR HEART WITH THE WORLD AND FOLLOW IN THE STEPS OF MARY AND LET THE FULLNESS OF GOD BE BORN IN YOU TODAY!