There is only one culture war at play at Christmas, and that is between Christianity and its actions.
Scripture:Luke 1:46-55 The Message (MSG)
And Mary said, I'm bursting with God-news; I'm dancing the song of my Savior God. God took one good look at me and look what happened— I'm the most fortunate woman on earth! What God has done for me will never be forgotten, the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others. His mercy flows in wave after wave on those who are in awe before him. He bared his arm and showed his strength, scattered the bluffing braggarts. He knocked tyrants off their high horses, pulled victims out of the mud. The starving poor sat down to a banquet; the callous rich were left out in the cold. He embraced his chosen child, Israel; he remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high. It's exactly what he promised, beginning with Abraham and right up to now.
The Birth of Salvation
Women really get a bad reputation when it comes to our male-dominated societies. It seems that in most cultures that come out of antiquity, women are responsible for most. if not all of the world's calamities. From the Epic of Gilgamesh to the opening of Pandora's Box, women have continuously been portrayed as seductresses who lead men astray and whose curiosity brings about great suffering to the whole of humanity. These stories do not get any better in our own sacred scriptures, as the theological imaginations of the writers of Genesis create a narrative that places the fall of humanity on the shoulders of Eve, who allowed her sense of reason lead her to take a bite out of the fruit of knowledge. For she logically thought, that surely God would not let them die, for the simple act of becoming awakened to the realities of the world and of the Universe itself. Yet, although God did not allow them to die, and although Adam lays all the blame on Eve, in the foundational theological narrative that is Genesis, humanity is expelled from paradise. This is storytelling at its best, for it helped those ancient writers explain the state of the world, due to the actions of humans that throughout time seem to excel in activities that result in calamity instead of in the works that result in peace and equality. These stories of the role of women in the foundational narratives of our Western Culture, continue to be the fertile lands of male chauvinism and patriarchal social orders. You can see it at play at all levels of our society as women are paid less than men for the same amount of work, are at risk of losing any career advancements all because they can bring life into the world, and continue to be thought of as the weaker of the two sexes, even when the reality is that women can outperform men in many of the fields that are dominated by them.
The treatment of women is one of those things that always got me into trouble in bible classes when it was a child. I could never fully understand why women could not be pastors or leaders in the church that I grew up in, and why the bible is interpreted to have such a negative outlook towards women. I mean the very story of Christmas is about a young woman, whose child would change the very course of human history. And in the Catholic and Orthodox Church, Mary is one of the most influential figures in Christianity, yet at the same time women are relegated to second class citizens in the very life of the church. The reality is that in the bible the role of women in every single foundational narrative, is the spark that sets those events into motion in the first place. From Sarah's beauty which consistently saved the life of Abraham in the courts of Empires, to the midwives in Exodus who refused to follow Pharaoh's orders to kill Hebrew baby boys and instead lied to the Pharaoh, to protect the lives of those baby boys. Women are the very heart of most of the stories where we lay the foundations to our own theological imagination. Without them, there would be no Abraham, no Joseph, no Moses, and no David. A fact that goes beyond their ability to bear children, but reflects the selfless nature in their actions, and whose stories are part of a larger narrative, that if allowed to break free from the chains of the patriarch, tell a story where women are at the very core of the promise of Salvation.
How then can we on this Sunday of Joy, celebrate the strength, power, and selflessness of the matriarchs of our faith, and of Mary, who became a closed circle to our theological Eve?
Our theological imagination looks at the prophetic traditions of Isaiah in the Hebrew Bible and embraces the words of the prophet, which looked at the realities of the world before him and imagine a break in human history. The prophetic imagination of Isaiah in chapter seven, speaks of a young woman who shall give birth to a child, whose name would signal a shift in human-divine consciousness and who would choose good over evil. In other parts of Isaiah, our Christian tradition embraces the prophetic words of chapter 35, that speak of the One who will come to save humanity from the self-destructive loops of our own chosen calamities. A prophecy that imagines a shift in the realities of this world by expressing the very words of John the Baptist that we heard last week-- which embraces a world where those who are blind to their own destruction, shall be made to see by the embrace of love and hope. That those who have ears but cannot hear the suffering of this world, will listen to once more the calling of the great I Am, and move towards action. Those who are paralyzed by their fears and anxieties, shall be made to break free from them and embrace the fullness of life. And a world where those who have been muted by the realities of their injustice, will sing songs of joy and peace as they become the very voice in the wilderness. Voices that continue to remind us to shift our understanding of the human condition so that we can become fully awakened by the Salvation that we see in Christ. One that was birthed into this world by that young woman named Mary, mother to the One that would reflect the fullness of God, from the very core of his humanity, and God's hope and love in his death and resurrection.
Therefore, our scripture reading this morning, matches perfectly with the Joy of Advent, as we experience the words of Mary, as she shares her joy of being chosen to carry the very nature of God inside of her. Using our own theological imagination, I welcome you all this morning to imagine Mary putting her hands on her belly and like most mothers do, speak out loud her hopes and dreams for the child that is developing inside of her. In this scene, Mary embraces her role in the birth of the One who would turn the world right-side-up, by reflecting the reality of God's vision and love for humanity. Mary then becomes the bringer of Salvation, the one that gives birth to the child, who would tear down the walls that separate humanity from the fullness of their divine nature and from the realities of the Kingdom of God. Mary truly is blessed and joins the symphony of women in our sacred scriptures, whose actions are the very nature of God on Earth.
From Eve to Mary
But on a more profound theological level, Mary can be looked at as the closed circle in the story of our primordial Eve. For Eve is fully reconciled to the human condition through the actions of Mary. When it comes to our sacred scripture, Eve can be interpreted at as the very nature of humanity, awakening to the realities of choice, through the evolution of divine consciousness in the minds of early humans. Eve is the one that embraces reason, by believing that the nature of the One inside of her, the very nature of the Universe who made living beings out of stardust, would want humanity to be architects of their own destinies and embrace the nature of their divine internal selves. Eve embraced the concept of choice, where we as reflections of God in this realm of existence, are now able to choose between good and evil. And it is that choice that can determine hell or heaven in the realities of our own existence. Therefore, Eve is a representation of our ability to choose and the consequences that come from that reality. Adam, on the other hand, can represent the easy way out in blaming others for our mistakes and the first negative action, that became a generational trauma and set the stage for Cain and Abel and the story of Noah. Yet, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. And Mary's role in our prophetic imaginations, represents the counteraction to the generational traumas of Adam, as she embraces Eve and brings to life the very nature of our full humanity, in the form of a child that would define Salvation and bring about reconciliation between humanity and the divine.
Mary and Jesus
Therefore, in the theological and prophetic drama that we call the Bible, Mary truly is blessed among women. Where her own humanity and the stories of all the women that came before her, have now fused with the very nature of the Indescribable One inside of her. A story that even today serves as an anti-cultural statement, for a young woman becomes pregnant out of wedlock, and yet is embraced with love and not rejected by the man that would become her husband or by her parents. A story where she shares her good news with her cousin Elizabeth, who at an old age, became pregnant with John the Baptist, who would become a pivotal pillar in the ministry of Mary's son. A story where she is forced by the Empire to return to the birthplace of her husband while pregnant, and while on that journey, goes into labor. And Jesus, Emmanuel, God is with us, is born in a manger surrounded by the very people that Mary imagined would be affected by the birth of her son. For Mary, as a humble young woman, has brought forth onto the world the very nature of Hope, Peace, Joy, and Love. And in that baby, the sacrifice and the tears of our biblical matriarchs, are meshed into the very flesh of that young boy. Allowing him to fully impersonate all of the words that we have today, when we sing our Christmas hymns and carols, and to establishing a shift in overall story of women. For this child will grow up to free people from the self-destructive loops of the human condition and whose ministry would take on the very definition of the new world that is described by Paul's words in Galatians. One wherein Christ, there is no us versus them, there is no slave or free, there is no male or female, for we are all One through the awakening of the Christ inside of us and through the realization of the fullness and the Joy of our Salvation.
Embrace the Joy of Mary
So today, I welcome us to embrace the Joy of Mary and to become fully aware of our Salvation. For as we continue to countdown the days of Advent, we continue the journey inwards to the very core of our divine consciousness. And as we look at ourselves in the mirrors of our realities, let us honor the matriarchs of our faiths and embrace the Salvation of the son of Mary. One which reminds us that our existence, is but a collection of choices and actions that we take. And for every decision that we make, whether good or evil, the consequences of those actions affect not just our own lived realities but reverberate throughout the divine strings of our connected humanity. When you leave here this morning, take a moment to examine the choices that you make throughout the rest of the week, as we prepare for the final Sunday of Advent, which is Love. And as you make decisions this week, ask yourselves whether your actions are operating in the realities of Christ inside us all, or do they come out of the generational traumas of our past. Remembering that much like Christ signifies the realization of a new Adam. Let us also embrace the reconciliation of the Eve inside us all, that awakens us to realities of our choices. Which allows us to embrace the story of the Wise Woman in Gilgamesh, who opened the eyes of the hero to the evils of humanity. And let us embrace the Hope of Pandora, which remained inside of her box, to counter the worst parts of our own existence. Friends, the very nature of God has been speaking to us through the wisdom of our ancient myths and our own sacred scriptures. All that we need to do is embrace that wisdom and believe like Mary, that God can move inside us all, regardless of how we see ourselves in the mirror of our realities. We are shareholders in the story of Christmas, that turn the ancient world on its head and established a new hope for humanity. One that promises Salvation through the birth of fullness of Love. This is our story. This is her-story. And this is the story of the One, who never gave up on the promises made to humanity, at the beginning of time itself. May we embrace that same Hope and Joy.