Women as well as men are key players used by God at the first Advent. It isn’t just old and young (see yesterday’s blog – Old and Young) but women and men too. Jesus really does come for everyone and will use all who are ready, willing and obedient.

Of course men were involved – people like Joseph, Zechariah, Simeon, the shepherds and wise men. But women were important too. In fact they were probably the essential people in Luke’s gospel account. After all, Mary was the one who was ‘highly favoured’ (Luke 1:30). Elizabeth was the one carrying a child ‘filled with the Spirit from the womb’ (1:15) who ‘leaped in her womb‘ when Elizabeth and Mary met (1:41) resulting in Elizabeth being ‘filled with the Holy Spirit’ (1:41). Elizabeth was obedient to God’s voice, saying her son should be called John (1:60) despite it contravening the customs of the day. Mary was clearly being led by God even in her exhaustion after Jesus was born, for by placing him in the manger she was unknowingly producing a sign that confirmed to the shepherds (2:7,12,16) that Jesus was the special baby they were looking for!

I find all that fascinating. In a male-dominated culture where women were often taken for granted, women were the ones particularly in tune with the work of the Holy Spirit. God was clearly challenging some of the patriachal assumptions of the day.

As many of us pray for a fresh outpouring of the Spirit in our day we should similarly expect that women as well as men will be called, equipped and used by God. If there are issues for followers of Jesus to address in our generation to make sure we’re ready, they’re not about gender. They’re about obedience. Will women and men really follow Jesus and go where he goes, say what he says and do what he does? Will men and women humble themselves and pray? Will men and women feed daily on God’s word? Will men and women live lives of service and devotion to God and those around them? Will women and men be so filled with the Spirit that his transforming love and power genuinely touches those with whom they share their lives? It seems to me, as I read the Scriptures, that those who say ‘yes’ to those kind of questions are the ones who see God do amazing things. Whether they’re men or women.

This Advent, how do you respond to those questions at the end of this blog? Why not talk to God about your answers?