[Originally published in the Monroe News on December 17, 2021]
Most Christians around the world are in the midst of the beloved season of Advent. This season takes its peculiar name from the Latin word adventus meaning arrival or coming. Christians take a focus upon two particular themes during this season of Advent. The first being regular worship in preparation for the arrival/coming of our Savior Jesus. The second being preparation for this arrival through a focus upon repenting of our sins that our hearts be made ready for the Savior.
Throughout this season we sing wonderful Advent-themed hymns that are long cherished by the Church. We gather for extra midweek worship services to assist our focus during this season. We hear of the great works of John the Baptist, the long foretold prophet who “prepared the way of the Lord” when Jesus’ public ministry was about to begin in the 1st century AD. We light the candles of Advent wreaths to remind us of themes like hope, peace, joy and love in our progression through this season.Amidst all of the interesting themes in this Advent season there is another one that should not be overlooked for it is of vital importance. Aside from Jesus himself, women play some of the most important roles to be celebrated. The women around Jesus and whose great deeds of witness are recorded in the New Testament are rightly to be remembered at this time of year, and every time of year.
Consider for example Elizabeth the mother of John the Baptist. She, like many women before her and after her, bore the struggle of desiring motherhood yet waiting and wondering if it would ever come to her. Though advanced in years, Elizabeth does finally conceive by the grace of God. During her pregnancy another mother of miraculous pregnancy, Mary, comes to visit her. Mary of course is carrying the Christ child in her womb. In this unforgettable meeting, Elizabeth is among the first on this earth to proclaim the wonder and the identity of Jesus when she tells Mary “Blessed is the fruit of your womb, and why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me. (Lk 1:43). Elizabeth’s long years of patience and waiting put her in this sacred position to be a witness to the wonders of God.”
Another woman to consider is Mary Magdalene. She isn’t connected to the birth story of Jesus and that should be a reminder that Advent isn’t all about Jesus’ birth. Christians celebrate Advent as a preparation for the 2nd coming of Jesus and Mary Magdalene has a key role in that. On Easter morning, when Jesus had risen from the dead, of all the people in the world to first appear, He chose Mary Magdalene. He chose a woman to be the first witness to the resurrection. A woman to be the first witness of the Church that Jesus is risen from the dead. This wasn’t by accident. With the resurrection of Jesus being the central teaching to the Christian faith and witness till the end of time, Mary Magdalene has this most prominent place of being the first witness in all of it.
One more woman, perhaps foremost of them all, has to be Mary, the mother of our Lord. Can you even begin to imagine the hardships that she faced? An unexpected pregnancy. Trying to explain a divine conception to your betrothed and your parents in a culture that could have shamed you mercilessly. Being an imperfect sinful mother while raising, quite literally, the perfect Son. Mary’s place in history is undoubtedly unique and blessed and cherished. We rightly honor her and remember her for it. She likewise helps remind us and teach us of the utmost importance the role of motherhood plays in our lives, in the life of the church, and especially as a part of the forthcoming Christmas celebrations. It should go without saying that the birth of Jesus is all about a mother, Mary.
Acknowledging these women as part of this Advent season is good and truthful for us to do. Their faithful witness to the Christ and the humble roles they played in the ministry of our Lord has forever blessed each of us.
We are right to give thanks and high praise to the blessed vocations of motherhood and womanhood. The importance of each in our lives cannot be understated. I would encourage you in the days ahead, no matter what season or holiday you may be celebrating, to take the time to give thanks for the women in your life and the roles they have played to be a blessing to you.
To God be the glory.
Mark Witte is the pastor at Grace Lutheran Church.
You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org