A female voice begins the Jesus story. In Luke’s version, a woman decides all by herself — a subversive thing! — whether the Jesus story will even happen. Mary’s "let it be" gets everything started.
A courageous, hesitant, female voice brings God more fully into the world.
Advent is a good time to honor, cherish and listen to the many strong female voices that challenge us, teach us, love us, and bring us into a deeper experience of God, if we let them.
Then and now, those female voices are widely ignored, marginalized, and muted by those who think that only males should be heard. The Jesus story turns all that upside-down. It places women front and center, right from the start.
Mary’s role is shocking in a time and a place when only men made the big decisions and women were treated more like property than persons. That’s only the beginning of this theologically radical and socially subversive story.
Luke’s version has Mary visiting her relative Elizabeth, uniting two strong women in a divine moment. Mary preaches about God’s passion for justice in ways that her son would later repeat, which is no surprise.
After all, who teaches Jesus and molds him? His mom. Jesus first learns about God through a female voice.
Perhaps that’s why Jesus is so persistent about ignoring and violating the rules in his society and his religion that try to limit the role of women. He constantly interacts with women in ways the religious and social leaders find scandalous.
There’s the famous story of Jesus visiting two sisters and one of them chooses to sit with him and discuss religion — a man’s realm — instead of joining her sister Martha in preparing the meal, as a woman was required to do back then.
We all know that the Jesus story culminates with women showing courage and love while the men run and hide. Peter denies knowing Jesus to save his hide. The women? They risk their lives to be with Jesus up to his last breath.
And as the story goes, two days later it’s the women who have the courage to go to the tomb. While the men are still hiding in fear, the women experience the still-alive Jesus. He tells them to teach the men what they’ve experienced. The men will learn from the women.
Predictably, the men don’t believe the women and dismiss their accounts. They run to the tomb to see for themselves. And yet, they don't experience the still-alive Jesus that the women already know.
The same thing happens in every generation: Men choose to ignore the voices of women who have experienced things they know nothing about.
The men who took control of the church marginalized women, something Jesus would find appalling. They dishonestly portrayed Mary of Magdala as a prostitute. Jesus’ mother was limited to the role of the “Virgin Mary” instead of the courageous, let-it-be Mary who changed everything all by herself.
Today, many faith communities bar women from going to the pulpit and telling about their experiences of the still-alive Jesus. Women’s voices are marginalized and ignored, just like 2,000 years ago.
Our society considers a female voice less believable and less important than a male voice. When it comes to sexual abuse, for instance, a man’s shifting denial is believed over the word of so many courageous and prophetic women saying #MeToo.
It’s long past a time for change.
Let’s use this Advent — the season that starts with one woman’s courageous voice — to pay closer attention to all the female voices in our world. Let’s honor them and hear God still speaking to all of us through them.
May we let those voices teach us their truths, especially the truths that we’re reluctant to hear. May we allow their courageous and persistent “let it be” change each of us and our world all over again.