This Christmas, I’m pondering the grittier, truer side of the nativity narrative through the lens of a refugee mother who waits with her children for their dream of liberation. I’m also contemplating the character of a God who rescues even the most marginalized among us.
When I met this blazing high-school junior, I could tell she had a fire in her gut that compelled her to contend for things that matter to God. This was her God-given gift to the world, yet she shattered the mold of a typical, “godly young woman,” and lost interest in organized religion.
Not an uncommon story.
While the institution of the church in the West is arguably in decline, wise women, young and old, are finding their way to Jesus, starting revolutions of love against society’s degradation.
Merry Christmas from The Junia Project! Today our gift to you is this thoughtful and poignant reflection about what women truly want for Christmas. May it be more so in 2017! “While in line at a downtown grocery store, a magazine headline caught my eye, “What Women Long For this Christmas.” The subtitle implied the article would be a resource for gift options or tips on how to relieve women of the hustle and bustle of their inevitable Christmas furry. I rolled my eyes at yet another sentimental and incomplete interpretation of the wants of women. Beyond our shopping lists and our frenzied schedule of the holiday season, what women long for this Christmas is as provocative as it is revolutionary.”
Impromptu nativity reenactments are one of my favorite Christmas traditions.
In our home, someone reads from the Gospel account and we bring out a big pile of potential costumes for everyone to chose a part and act it out on the spot. It’s a beautiful mess.
Anika, my 5 year old, wants to be Mary this year. Her personality doesn’t necessarily fit the stereotypical Mary persona, so putting her in pastels and having her sit quietly as a “humble servant of the Lord” feels like a stretch. Anika is bold, mischievous, clever, wild and adventuresome. Not your typical mild and meek mother of Jesus depicted in nativity figurines and Christmas art. Yet I wonder if she resembles some of the characteristics of the real Mary more than tradition would have us believe.
I’ve found that metaphors for leadership and church planting over the last few decades have arisen dominantly out of male narratives. Much of church planting training, coaching and methodology is front-loaded with language developed by what is traditionally the experience of men, often neglecting the common experience of women. This reality narrows our vision for the church and paralyzes our full participation with God’s hopes for humankind.
One of my favorite metaphors to ignite our imagination and widen our paradigm for birthing of new local expressions of church is that of the Midwife in the birth of a child.
After the birth of my second daughter, I would frequently introduce my Midwife Janna as, “my Midwife who delivered my baby.” To which Janna would respond, “I didn’t deliver anything. It was your delivery of your baby and I just got to witness the miracle.”
In Isaiah 66:9 we see God portrayed as the one who gives birth, specifically to the newborn nation of Israel. “’Do I bring to the moment of birth and not give delivery?’ says the LORD. ‘Do I close up the womb when I bring to delivery?’ says your God.”
God is birthing the church and just as the Midwife comes alongside a laboring mother, so are we invited to come alongside God in the miracle of new life.