The Woman Who Makes Christmas Great

by Edmond Lo
Fourth Sunday of Advent

Micah 5:1-4A

Hebrews 10:5:10

Luke 1:39-45

The day is edging to leave earlier, receding far below the horizons when mother earth is still unprepared for the looming darkness. The night…O, how she drags her feet shamelessly and overstays her welcome! With temperatures falling, light snow drifting, and the winds picking up speed, one doesn’t really need the busy downtown streets and the packed shopping malls to confirm that Christmas is here. Uncomfortable weather conditions aside, Christmas is always the time of the year when our hearts suddenly regain affections for the people around us; and our countenance, stern and robotic all year long, suddenly regains its human expressions. In this beautiful Christmas season, the NewSpiration Sunday reflection writing team would like to wish our readers peace, joy, and many wonderful blessings from the Lord! Now, let’s turn our thoughts to the Mass readings of the last Sunday of Advent - already filled with a festive, yuletide flavor as it is - to reflect on the woman who makes Christmas great for all of us.

"Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb” (Luke 1:42). Prompted by the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth cries out loud on seeing Mary in this Sunday’s gospel. How is Mary blessed? Mary is blessed in many ways. We will count two of them in this cursory reflection.

She is blessed because she’s the woman foretold by the prophets to give birth to Christ, our Savior. This Sunday’s first reading is a prophecy of great significance from Micah, a Judean prophet who lived about 700 years before Jesus. He announces the coming of two critical figures: a woman “who is to give birth” in Bethlehem to “the ruler in Israel Whose origin is from of old, from ancient times” (Mi 5:1-2). The ruler the woman gives birth to “shall stand firm and shepherd his flock by the strength of the LORD…and…his greatness shall reach to the ends of the earth; he shall be peace” (Mi 5:3-4). Who is this woman? Who is the child she gives birth to? Inspired by the Holy Spirit, St. Matthew applies Micah’s prophecy to Mary and her infant, Jesus (cf. Mt. 2:4-11).

Mary is also blessed because she is the woman prefigured by special women of faith and courage in the OT. Whether it’s the first woman of the Bible, Eve, from whom the whole human race descends; or women of barrenness - Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Hannah - whose special pregnancies are the gifts of God; or women of lowliness like Rahab (a harlot who helped Joshua and Israel to conquer Jericho (cf. Jos 2:8ff)) and Ruth (a gentile woman married to Boaz, from whose line Jesus descends (cf. Mt 1:5)); or women of courage and liberation like Esther and Judith; or women of queenship like the queen mothers of the kings of Judah (particularly Bathsheba, the queen mother of Solomon (cf. 1 Kgs 2:19)); every one of these OT women is chosen by God to point us to Mary, the woman who mothers the whole human race spiritually, conceives miraculously in spite of “barrenness” (“I have no relations with a man” (Lk 1:34)), humbles herself as “the handmaid of the Lord”, assists Jesus in the salvation and liberation of mankind as his Co-Redemptrix, and is enthroned by her Son as the heavenly Queen Mother.

Mary is the woman of history. Together, Eve and Mary form the bookends of the Bible, one inaugurating the long history of salvation with human woes due to her disobedience, the other bringing it to a joyous conclusion because of her obedience. This is why Mary is called the New Eve and why she is succinctly identified by St. Irenaeus as the woman who unties the knots of Eve’s disobedience.

What’s in between the two bookends of the Bible, i.e. in between Eve in Genesis and Mary in Revelation (the woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet)? Another woman, the bride in the book of the Song of Songs – a book purposely placed at the center of the Bible. The sweet romance between the bride and her groom, laid bare in the biblical centerfold, points us to the sweet romance between the Marian Church (the bride, the mother, the New Eve) and the Lord Jesus (the groom, the New Adam). It’s only appropriate that the Bible should conclude with the Marian Church – the woman, the bride – urging her journeying husband to return: “Amen! Come, Lord Jesus” (Rev 22:20).

Jesus is our Lord and the reason why we celebrate Christmas. But in this Christmas, let’s also remember the woman who makes it great.