In a lot of ways, from a human perspective, the hero of the Christmas story is a woman.
There’s Mary. Unwed mother-to-be, at the very center of the messy drama of the Incarnation. I love Mary’s faithfulness. Don’t get me started on her beautiful worship hymn (here). Come to think of it, perhaps Mary is the first in a long line of gifted women worship leaders?!? Or, with a nod to Miriam, maybe Mary is one more link in a glorious chain that extends to today.
But as with much of the Christmas story, Mary is a strange choice as the protagonist. After all, shouldn’t the Messiah come through a couple–through a woman–blessed with power and means?!?
Like perhaps a Roman big wig? Luke mentions Tiberius the emperor and Pilate the governor. What about them? Wouldn’t it be wise to have the savior born as a citizen of the occupying nation? Heck, wouldn’t it be better just from a PR standpoint? I mean, really, shouldn’t the Messiah be born in a palace instead of a manger?
Or how about Herod, King of Judah? Surely, having Jesus born into the Judean king’s household makes far more sense. He’d be safe. He’d have resources. And, ultimately, he’d have a platform from which to influence, for as we know from Mathew’s Gospel (here), Herod’s son Archelaus succeeded his father to the throne.
Or the Jewish high priests would be sensible candidates. Luke identifies these men as Annas and Caiaphas (here). Most scholars think that Caiaphas was Annas’ son-in-law. What if that was Jesus instead?!? To rule the Temple was to have spiritual, judicial, economic and cultural influence. Surely having the baby Jesus born into the Temple elite would communicate the right message about his messianic mission?
Or, come to think of it, even Mary’s cousin makes more sense than Mary herself, married as she was to the priest Zechariah. What if Jesus had been born in place of John, with access to the religious establishment through his father?
Sensible? Wise? Strategic?
Instead, we have the manger, marginalization…..and Mary.
On Christmas, heaven was made manifest in the nitty gritty. And in choosing to have Jesus born unto a poor, unwed mother, the message of Christmas seems to be that:
Privilege is powerless in the economy of the incarnate God.
On Christmas Eve, our pastor quoted Luke 2:19, an interesting verse right in the middle of Jesus’ birth narrative:
“Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.”
I wonder if one of the things Mary pondered was why her, and what did that tell her about her God?!?