Singing Christmas carols at church always gets to me. Singing the words, surrounded by my people, puts me smack dab in the middle of the Christmas story like nothing else can. I can’t quite explain it. This year, while singing the same songs as always, a new Christmas-time truth hit me: It feels like we’re living under the rule of a King Herod.
A ruler obsessed with himself, who fakes religious interest to gain the trust of certain people, whose wrath isn’t to be messed with and whose reign was historically polarizing. Are we talking about Rome circa 4 BC or America in 2017…?
The joy of this season, the intense dichotomy of helplessness and hopefulness that paints the Christmas story, always catches me off guard. Every year. These emotions feel multiplied this year, as 2017 draws to a close and it feels like we’re still recovering from the news cycle of January 1st. It feels as if we’re just as lost as those people were so many years ago. At least I do.
The expectant chosen people, waiting for a Messiah.
The expectant world, desperate for Hope.
The expectant mother, going through what we can only imagine.
Or… can we?
In a world so focussed on discrediting, disempowering, and disbelieving women, I feel a special insight into Mary’s plight this year. I don’t know what pregnancy is like. I can’t fathom being with child in the first century. I don’t know what it must have been like to go to your fiancé and try to explain you’re not only a pregnant virgin, but you’re pregnant with God’s son.
But I do know this: It’s 2017 and if tomorrow I were claim to be a victim of identity theft, I would be believed. If I were to claim to be the victim of a hit and run, a robbery, or a random mugging, I would be believed. If I were to claim to be a victim of rape, I would be doubted. The world is more likely to believe my story, at face value, of literally any other crime than they are to believe my story of sexual assault.
This isn’t just me. This is any woman. Please don’t sit there and think, “Well, I would believe you, Krysti. I know you. I know you wouldn’t lie. I know you wouldn’t make that up.” When you doubt the latest woman reported on the news, it’s just as good as doubting any woman.
Rape is reported falsely at the same rate of every other crime, and yet we doubt it’s occurrence. We doubt it’s victims. We doubt it’s prevalence in our society. The victims are liars until proven trustworthy; the predators are innocent until proven guilty. And we have the audacity to call that our justice system.
It’s 2017 and we still claim women falsely accuse men for attention – as if they are getting book deals and reality TV offers, and not loosing their jobs, their reputations, and their sanity. We would rather believe attention seeking, lying, slutty women are on the rise rather than believe we have sexual predators in our midst – maybe even in our homes. We would rather turn this into something we can control – more dress codes, more security, more HR departments – instead of holding men to higher standards.
This is not a lust issue or a rise of sex addictions or a need for women to wear more clothes; this is an abuse of power. And men in power know how the system works: without concrete proof, it’s your word against theirs. In a he-said-she-said situation, the he is always given more weight. Our justice system is built to allow men like this to prosper – and they know it. They thrive on it. They use it to keep going.
I was recently trying to understand a friend’s stance on Moore, and they said something that chilled me to the core: “Well, if enough validated women come forward, of course it’s something to look into.”
If enough women speak up.
If enough raise their voices….
How many is enough for you?
One woman reporting sexual assault is one woman too many. One woman abused is one woman too many. One woman raped is one too many.
I think of the virgin birth, and I am not amazed at the scientific miracle of birth without conception. I am not amazed at a teenage girl having to carry such a heavy burden. I am amazed that a man believed her.
(To be clear: he didn’t originally. Joseph was planning on ending the engagement, before an angel stepped in.)
The Christmas story is dependent on a miracle involving a woman. A virgin birth. The impossible, paving the way for the even more impossible: God incarnate, fully man and yet still fully divine. Back before scientific means to prove a women’s virginity, back before paternity tests and pregnancy tests – a virgin birth. A seemingly crazy story told by a woman. And men believed her.
The Christmas story is also dependent on a Herod who wanted to, needed to, make everything about himself. A Herod who was illegitimately on the throne (maybe he didn’t win the popular vote…) and was therefore fearful of whispers of a newborn King. A Herod who insisted that he, too, wanted to worship this King – he insisted that he, too, is religious. A Herod so jealous and so crazed with the idea of a baby born to possibly take his power, he mass slaughters children. (If it was 2017, hypothetically, this king would be “pro-life” on paper and yet gleefully sign death sentences into laws. Hypothetically. Maybe.) A Herod whose anger you don’t want to get in the way of.
A Herod whose reign feels never ending and all encompassing and so, so hopeless. And that’s exactly when Hope shows up. That’s exactly when God decides to enter in.
And where was the Light born?? In the city outskirts. In the mess. With the marginalized, the overlooked. King Herod is in his castle (or maybe off celebrating Christmas at his golf course, WHO KNOWS), and the most powerful being in existence is a newborn babe in a feeding trough.
We were never to look for Jesus in the White House or the palace or even the comfy-but-crowded inn; we were to look for the Light among the hurting and the hopeless. Our true Hope will always be found with those who culture and society has disdainfully said, “There’s no room in this inn”. It’s where Christ was born, after all. It’s the whole reason Jesus came.
Have you ever wondered what would have been, if Joseph hadn’t believed her? Mary was still pregnant. Mary was still giving birth to our Savior. This plan was not dependent on Joseph, by any means. Can you imagine? Jesus Christ, son of single mother. Bastard son at that, everyone scoffing at his mother’s ridiculous story. They would have probably been on welfare or government handouts – the nerve. And Joseph would have missed out on raising God.
This Christmas season, I am struck new by the beauty of believing women. I am reminded of the redemptive story offered to Joseph, a front row seat to something he almost turned down because the truth was hard to comprehend. A chance we are all given to enter into God’s story, if we only believe the women. I am reminded of a Herod who wants to tell you his own story of what to believe, who wants to write a new story of alternative facts, sans women. I am reminded of a God who not only believes women, but created women in Her image, and made sure to include women in the story of saving humanity.
Christmas, at its heart, is the story of God choosing to meet us where we’re at, as we are. It is inclusive and revolutionary and holy in its simplicity – all things Herod fears. All things Herod stands against. Christmas, from its very start, is the story of believing women.
This year, maybe we can remember what role Herod plays in the nativity scene so many adorn our houses with.
Maybe we can, like Alabama has, say No Moore to sexual assault, sexual abuse, religious fear mongering, and silencing women.
Maybe, just maybe, we can make an effort to put Mary back in the Christmas story – not as a mother on the outskirts, but as a woman whose story, when believed, changed history.