In our church during Advent we’re entering into the lineage of Jesus, dwelling with the stories of the four women named in Matthew’s genealogy. As a disciple of Jesus, this is my family tree, my spiritual DNA, these strong women my faith grandmothers. I love this genealogy, populated by wild and woolly risk-takers, most with the scent of scandal clinging about them.
I need to be reminded of this heritage because the slow drift of my heart is often towards cautious discipleship and a certain domestication of God. When Christianity becomes enchanted by North American worldliness it quickly gets reduced to a consumer spirituality, cordoned off as a harmless private morality and drained of its unsettling agenda.
But that sort of thing is distinctly out of shape with the contours of the gospel. Read Mary’s Magnificat and you can’t help but think: “Mary, Mary, little revolutionary.” These grandmothers in the gospel remind me of Advent’s radical hope, one I clutch on to for our fragile world, the gospel’s alternate reading of reality that looks and longs for God’s good intentions for all human life. These women lead me in a Jesus-way of life that counters both liberal and conservative ideologies, challenges both religious and irreligious, irks both traditionalists and relativists – and, consequently, a way of life that will run you into trouble with most people.
G.K. Chesterton, as he so often does, captures well the fierce faith of these women and the lovely paradox of living the gospel:
Jesus promised his disciples three things—that they would be completely fearless, absurdly happy, and in constant trouble.