You have probably seen this meme that is going around on social media.
The meme is based on an old joke that goes something like this.
“You know what would have happened if there had been three wise WOMEN instead of three wise MEN, don’t you? The three wise WOMEN would have asked for directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the Baby, cleaned the stable, made a casserole, and would have given practical gifts.”
While I think that joke no doubt panders way too much to the stereotypical roles we have for men and women it does help us think about the way female Magi might have acted had they visited the Christ Child.
My husband Dave once wrote a play that the students at Elmdale School in Steinbach staged at Christmas using giant puppets they had made. Dave called his play They Never Made It to the Manger. It told the story of a wise woman named Gertrude who never got to Bethlehem because she was so busy helping other folks, she met on her way there. She ended up giving needy people she encountered on her journey all the gifts she had prepared for the Christ child.
In their beautiful picture book Three Wise Women Mary Hoffmann and Lynne Russell tell the story of three women, one a young girl who runs a bakery, another a mother raising a toddler and the third an elder who is a storyteller in her village. They all see a special star and feel compelled to follow it.
The three women meet on their journey and become friends but hesitate to enter the stable when they finally find it because three obviously very wealthy men are just exiting, and they have left such fine and expensive gifts for the child. The women go in somewhat cautiously but are soon made comfortable and welcome. Feeling accepted they are empowered to offer their gifts.
The young baker takes out a loaf of bread she has baked for the new family,
the storyteller relates a marvellous and hopeful tale to the child and his parents,
and the toddler’s mother holds her child close to the baby so the little one can bestow a loving kiss on Jesus.
The story ends with the writer reminding readers that Jesus shared bread with others when they needed it, spread hope through his stories and brought a gift of love to the world.
Although gender stereotyping should be avoided, I do think there is some value in taking another look at the story of Christmas through more feminine eyes and discovering how it might help us interpret the Biblical narrative in new ways.