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The Joy of Christmas

By Charles Rush

December 15, 2002

Lk. 1: 27


T h
is morning we lift up the joy of Christmas, remembering the Magnificat of Mary and the simple joy that she has that God looked favorably upon her. It is true that in the Christmas story women are big players, without whom, nothing much can happen, but they are largely silent and in the background. It is the shepherds that lead the action; it is the three wise men. How different when we hear from the women. As a number of you have pointed out to me this season, if there had been three wise women, instead of three wise men, they would have 1) Asked Directions 2) Arrived on time 3) Helped deliver the baby 4) Cleaned the Stable 5) Made a casserole 6) Brought practical gifts and 7) There would be peace on earth.

That being the case, I’ve decided to shut up this morning and just let our women sing our praises of thanksgiving for your edification. And it is about time we encouraged the voice of women.

Last week I was stuck in the airport in Charloette, iced in. There were half a dozen guys waiting for the same flight with me that were Green Beret’s in special operations that had just returned from several months in Afghanistan. They were on the security detail that is supposed to help the Afghani’s in their quest for nation building. Naturally, I asked them for a realistic assessment of just how difficult that task was going to be. One of them summarized the political situation astutely, with respect for the Afghani people. He said, “we are being asked to bring democracy and democratic values to Afghanistan and there are two principal problems. The first is that we are being asked to teach people about a system they have no experience of, their culture and religion don’t support and they don’t think that they need. The second is that the women do all of the work and the men have all of the education and power. They then went on to describe a typical day for a woman while the men sit around and watch them do it, in the most respectful and polite adjectives.

I finally said, “That sounds horrible if you are a woman.” And one of the officers said, “Sir, you don’t want to be a woman in that part of the world.” My prediction is that in the next several generations, we will in fact have a worldwide consensus on democratic values and human rights but it will not happen because third world nations are converted to free-market capitalism or the American ideals, however persuasive they might be. And it won’t happen because the United Nations invests in development programs, however important that they might be. And it won’t happen because the World Bank funds a series of educational opportunities, however important they might be. It is going to come because, in the fullness of time, there will be a world-wide women’s movement that presses for respect for women in every culture on the globe. That movement for respect will inevitably include moving towards parity in power between the genders, and access socially to positions of leadership culturally, politically, educationally, and religiously.

I can see the day when we have a woman that inspires us with a moral and spiritual vision for women- but not just women, all of us- everywhere much as Gandhi and Dr. King did in the last century. I hope my grandchildren or great grandchildren get caught up in the inspiration of the movement.

And the benefits for all of us will be as broad as they are deep. Because herein lie the seeds that can form deep roots for genuine participation and inclusivity. And real participation will support democratic values in a variety of different cultural models and with a variety of different religious traditions. If we dubbed the next century the American century or the Free Market century, how few people would be directly impacted and involved in that change. But if it becomes the Global Women’s Century, half of the world will be empowered and the other half… will be scrambling.

But they needn’t be threatened, despite the fact that they will have to sacrifice unilateral control and exclusive power. It turns out, that hasn’t helped us men rise to our highest potential either. Just as the spiritual vision of Dr. King and Mahatma Gandhi had a humanizing effect on all of us, so will a woman’s movement open up new doors of creativity we haven’t even imagined yet, even in the countries where women’s rights have progressed the most. What will actually happen is our great grand children are going to say is, “what took you so long?”

We have had great progress in certain countries in the West, but the World-wide Woman’s movement is yet to be born. Sometime, somewhere a charismatic figure, an inspiring moral figure, will galvanize this new birth and capture the attention of every nation and hamlet. Those Spirit filled moments in history, when something new is born, something humanizing and including is born… those are moments when long-suffering and grief are transcended by the joy of hope, moments that as Isaiah has said “God will lift you up on eagles wings, and bear you on the breath of dawn, and make you to fly like the Sun.” It is that mystery of the movement of God that we sing about this morning, the joy that God has drawn near to us through this ordinary peasant woman in Israel, and that something new is about to happen in our midst, the full contours of which we cannot really appreciate just now, but we can tell, we can just see ahead that it will be profoundly good. So, Today, looking forward to God’s Good coming Kingdom, I ask you to join your hearts with our women’s voices that together we might give thanks and render humble prayer.

Amen.

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