Saturday 21 December 2019

Bible Book:

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leapt in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. (v. 41)

Luke 1:39-45 Saturday 21 December 2019

Psalm: Psalm 67


And now, here we are, on the brink. Four days from the day when we will celebrate what many would regard as the most significant day in world history. Our reading has taken us to the house of a Jewish cleric. What follows is so familiar, though often lost in the Christmas story as our nativity plays and carols allow the narrative to unfold. We tend to jump straight to a stable, Jesus and his mum and dad, shepherds and Magi. Usually rather pretty and sanitised. But for this moment slow down. Take it all in.

Mary has made her way to the hill country. Dusty roads, a climb, tired. She is greeted by Elizabeth. Mary’s arrival, Elizabeth’s movement, she’s six months pregnant, results in the baby moving in her womb. Pretty vigorous movement, the baby "leapt for joy", as the narrator has it. Familiar feelings for many women, even though the sharp kick or wriggle of the waiting-to-be-born might not always be described like this. And few mums to be are likely to say to a visitor, "Blessed are you among women"!

It all ties together of course. Mary will have sent Elizabeth a text telling her about the meeting with a strange visitor, an angel … Oh of course this is first century Palestine! Sorry!

Elizabeth’s awareness is expected because we are tuned into miracles. This is a Bible story. Of course.

And the reality of all that is going on is lost in something mystical when, in fact, we are heralding something thoroughly down to earth, grounded. And already Luke is beginning to hint at something of the revolutionary scandal that is about to unfold.

Pause for a moment. Who is here? Two women. No men? Well, it is Zechariah’s house, but he is not mentioned and, in any case, he has lost his voice. Already this gospel, this good news, is being heralded in the presence of women whose testimony is likely to be disregarded and where the only man is speechless. And what is to come is the birth of one to be regarded as God, in a squalid stable, to an unmarried woman and a man likely to be shunned? We hear little of Joseph again.

This shock, this scandal, with male voices silenced, we have smothered with tinsel and drowned out with carols. Subsequently men, like me, have taken over and told the story.

How different it might have been if culture allowed the gospel writers to be women. I wonder …


To Ponder:

  •  Do we ever feel shocked by Bible stories?
  • Would female authorship of the gospels make them sound different?
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