That man say we can’t have as much rights as a man ‘cause Christ wasn’t a woman. Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman. -Sojourner Truth, 19th century
On December 8th many Christians around the world honor what is known as the Immaculate Conception, which claims that Mary was conceived with supernatural help. Lutherans have tended to shy away from talking too much about Mary. Though we honor her as a saint and admit that she has a special role in the story of Jesus’ life, we don’t want to overplay it. And we certainly don’t subscribe to Mary being born “immaculately,” or “without sin.”
But let’s all take a step back for a moment to think about why our Roman and Orthodox brothers and sisters do hold Mary in such high, even immaculate, regard. What are they trying to say by holding her in a place of honor?
This quote by sister Sojourner gets at the root of what I like about lifting up Mary within the faith: her presence and role speaks to God’s favor and election of women as bearers of God’s word.
Literally, God’s Word: Jesus Christ.
This is a message that is still sorely needed in our world, and in our church communities. Women are entering seminary at roughly the same rate as men, but still struggle to find calls. Women are graduating college in higher numbers than men, but still get paid less on average for equal work.
The story of hope falling from the messenger Gabriel to the young woman Mary is that God chooses her, chooses women, to be an indispensable part in the story of salvation. How many young women have entered the ministry at her example? How many of our mothers, sisters, and grandmothers have heard God’s call in their various vocations just as Mary heard God’s call? For this we give thanks today.
- What woman in your life can you thank today for supporting you?
- In what ways can you lift up the role of women in front of your children, grandchildren, or friends in Advent, mirroring God’s lifting up of Mary in the salvation story?
Let us pray. Holy One, born of a human mother, today we give thanks for Mary and for the gift she is to our faith life. May we always see that your imprint is on both women and men, and that we are all called to bear your word in this world. In Advent hope we pray. Amen.
All italicized quotes, poems, and prayers come from An Advent Sourcebook (Liturgy Training Publications/Chicago, IL, 1986).