Of the slow revelation of God’s plan for redeeming his wayward creation, C.S. Lewis wrote, “The whole thing narrows and narrows, until at last it comes down to a little point, small as the point of a spear – a Jewish girl at her prayers.” Christ came for all humanity, but this Christmas I'm struck by the intimate way in which God dwelt, literally, in the feminine. I’m struck by how his first advent restored the dignity of women. God with us, ladies.
God created woman in his image, of course, bestowing on her divine dignity from the outset. But about five seconds after our expulsion from Eden, that dignity began to be stripped. Until very recently, the history of women in every culture and era has been one of oppression if not abuse. “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law….” (Galatians 4:4). And he started to change things.
Charles Wesley's hymn celebrates the mystery beautifully:
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; Hail, incarnate Diety! Pleased as man with men to dwell, Jesus our Emmanuel.
God could have created an adult body for his Son, as he did for Adam, and sent Jesus waltzing into Jerusalem ready to take on the powers that were. Certainly the Jews were expecting a King of that order. But he chose to start like the rest of us do, in a woman’s body. Our messiah, “although he existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:6-7). In stunning humility, he entered the very process he designed.
Mild he lays his glory by; born that man no more may die
In the old way women were not allowed in the temple proper; in the new, a woman’s body was deemed worthy to house Holiness itself. We who have carried life in our wombs can perhaps better appreciate the astonishing fact of the Divine taking on flesh in this way. The first felt kick. Fetal hiccups. Limbs crammed against your rib cage, organs pushed aside to make way for growing flesh and bone. Pregnancy is incredibly intimate – even more so than sex. God with us indeed.
Hail the heavn-born Prince of Peace; Hail the Son of Righteousness
As a grown man, Jesus continued to lift the chins of women. He went out of his way to connect with the woman at the well, the woman with the issue of blood, the woman spilling tears and perfume. With the adulterous woman, he ushered in a new era of mercy triumphing over judgment. Jesus was unusually tender and aware of the plight of women. Speaking of the Great Tribulation that will end life as we know it, he exclaimed, “Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing infants in those days!” (Matthew 24:19). What single man thinks about how difficult things will be for pregnant or nursing women?? What man thinks about such things?
Light and life to all he brings; risen with healing in his wings
Christ esteemed women and was therefore followed by a loyal group of them. Women stood by him at the cross while all but one of his male disciples fled. One of his last acts from that cross was to give directions for the care of his mother. Though women were not considered reliable witnesses, Christ appeared to them first after his resurrection. Apparently just because he wanted to.
This Christmas, I’m thankful that the Ultimate Man valued women long before it was cool to do so. He offered us not only redemption from sin and eternal salvation, but places of honor in his kingdom. And He's a safe refuge for women in what’s still a man’s world.
Christ by highest heaven adored, Christ the everlasting Lord!