How the Christmas Story Affirms Women
The Genesis account of Eve’s disobedience as the first sin is at the root of some religious and cultural teachings which consider women subhuman.However, judging from the Christmas story, those who blame Eve for the cause of sin should also credit the Virgin Mary for being the vessel of God's grace.
See how the Christmas story cancels the reasons for discriminating against women, and how it actually affirms them.
The Christmas Story
This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. . .
An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. . . And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” — Matthew 1: 18-21
- What does it say about the spiritual standing of women that God sends the Savior through the birth canal of a woman (without involving a man)?
- By bestowing honor on the woman as His vessel of choice, does He not cancel the stigma of the woman’s dishonor?
- Do not the four truths expressed in the following sub-headings give women reason to trust the opinion of God about them, over the opinion of those who think negatively about them?
(1) The Christmas Story Boosts the Woman's Significance
Matthew’s account of the genealogy of Jesus includes four women who would not have been handpicked by those who propagate the vices of women.
- (1) Tamar, twice married before she slept with the father of her two husbands and bore him a child;
- (2) Rahab, the reputed prostitute from Jericho;
- (3) Ruth, the widow from Moab where worship of false gods was the order of the day;
- (4) Bathsheba, the adulterer who conceived a child for her king while her husband was in the army, fighting on behalf of the said king.
These women bore children who featured in the genealogy of Jesus; whereby, giving them significance they did not previously achieve. Then, from their offspring came Jesus who was born to save them and the rest of mankind.
Although society gives more weight to the crimes of female prostitutes and adulterers than to the crimes of their male partners, Jesus (born of a woman) does not discriminate in his offer of salvation and redemption. What an honor for the immoral and pagan women in His genealogy--and for all women!
(2) The Christmas Story Features Female Support
In the gospel of Luke, the Christmas story (Luke 1) brings together two women supporting each other in the greatest event ever, while their men disqualified themselves by their doubt.
Elizabeth and Mary display a female-support model from which modern day women can learn that although women cannot substitute for men, they provide adequate support in the absence of men.
The women spend three months together. We can only imagine what they talked about—the strange circumstances surrounding their pregnancies, the reaction of their bodies, the responses of their men, the implication of the angel’s visit, and his message of faith that “Nothing is impossible with God” (37).
In the Christmas story, God brings an old woman and a young woman together to affirm, bless and honor each other. The Christmas story presents an example which teaches female friends and relatives the significance of celebrating of each other. No probing, no criticizing, no condemning, just supporting like Elizabeth and Mary.
(3) It Teaches Women How to Respond to God's Favor
Rendition of the The Magnificat
In response to Elizabeth’s blessing, Mary bursts into song (now known as The Magnificat). She expresses praise to God and then utters words which tempers honor with humility.
“For he took notice of his lowly servant girl,
and from now on all generations will call me blessed” (48)
Lest any woman begins to feel that God’s favor on women is a reason to boast or to treat men with condescension, Mary reminds us that her position is one of service. Even when God uses the woman, her attitude is not to be that she is indispensable to Him, but that she is grateful for the opportunity of working in partnership with Him. Mary recognizes the honor that future generations will give to her, but the credit does not go to a servant girl.
“For the Mighty One is holy,
and he has done great things for me” (49).
The rest of her song is all about the mighty deeds that God has accomplished. The response of Mary is the response from women everywhere who recognize that God has use for them. Only God can elevate women beyond what they seem to be, to what He determines they should be. The only boast they can have is about how good, loving, merciful and unpredictable He is in the lives of women.
(4) The Story Celebrates Womahood
"Mary, Did You Know?" by Pentatonix
Most Christmas sermons highlight salvation from sin, and they should; but the story also features salvation from stereotypical opinions about women and their status--in the community and in the church.
- Christmas presents the equal opportunity right of women in God’s plan for salvation and redemption.
- It highlights the equal worth of the individual woman whether she is a redeemed prostitute like Rahab or an honorable woman like the Virgin Mary.
- It celebrates the call of a barren old woman (Elizabeth) to begin something new (producing John, the forerunner of the Messiah).
- It celebrates the call of a pure, young woman (Mary) being chosen as a vessel of honor to participate in God's solution for an old problem (sin).
- It gives today's woman an opportunity to re-enact the female support between Elizabeth and Mary; to share comfort and compassion when the men are absent or preoccupied; to remind each other of how special each woman is to God.
The Christmas story is a demonstration of God’s enduring love for both women and men; still, be understanding if women react with excessive joy to the blessings of the Christmas season!
Scripture references in this article are from the New Living Translation unless otherwise noted.
© 2012 Dora Weithers