The birth of Jesus took place like this. His mother, Mary, was
engaged to be married to Joseph. Before they came to the marriage
bed, Joseph discovered she was pregnant (it was by the Holy Spirit,
but he didn't know that.) Joseph, chagrined but noble, determined
to take care of things quietly so Mary would not be disgraced.
While he was trying to figure a way out, he had a dream. God's
angel spoke in the dream: "Joseph, son of David, don't hesitate
to get married. Mary's pregnancy is Spirit-conceived. God's Holy
Spirit has made her pregnant. She will bring a son to birth,
and when she does, you, Joseph, will name him Jesus -- 'God saves'
-- because he will save his people from their sins." This
would bring the prophet's embryonic sermon to full term:
"Watch for this -- a virgin will get pregnant and bear a
They will name him Emmanuel" (Hebrew of "God is with
Then Joseph woke up. He did exactly what God's angel commanded
in the dram: He married Mary. But he did not consummate the marriage
until she had the baby. He named the baby Jesus.
<The Message >
Advent is a most joyous time. That sense of joy comes in looking
back and identifying the beginning spot of our understanding.
Where is the birth of joy?
There are as many different ways to talk about this as there
are folks. Mark jumps in and takes the storyline back to John
the Baptizer which by extension goes back to the prophets who
bring the good news of present change can affect future results.
Matthew tells this story through Joseph's dreams. Luke here tells
it through Mary's experience. John pushes it back to creation.
The question is not which is most accurate. A better question
is what is your experience of Emmanuel, God with us? How would
you trace that back? Your incarnational story is to be a joy
to you and others. You can tell it without a virginal birth,
but you can't tell it without a sense of blessedness. Follow
your blessedness and tell a new story of the presence of GOD.
Pot Shot number 2321 by Ashleigh Brilliant reads, "Nobody
has ever explained the mystery of how I existed before I met
you." That is a helpful insight as we consider whether this
story of Jesus' birth is an explanation or an indication. In
today's world, given what we know about birth, this is not an
explanation. It is a story trying to tell an experience. What
needs more looking at is the experience which triggered a story
told in its own time and context rather than putting all the
emphasis upon the story itself. Given today's sensibilities,
how would you tell the story of where the most important person
in your life came from? This question will help readers know
where to put the emphasis when retelling this story as part of
an oral tradition. For me the emphasis upon presence is of greater
importance that the mechanism of that presence.
A Christmas present I hope you will buy for yourself is the new
book by Bishop John Shelby Spong, A New Christianity for a
New World: Why Traditional Faith is Dying and How a New Faith
is Being Born. This gives an overview of why getting caught
up in the literalism of this story is less than helpful and how
we might go about appreciating both larger and more diverse stories
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