So . . . what really happened in the manger that night so many years ago?
Interestingly enough, Mark and John do not mention the birth narrative. Neither does the Apostle Paul in all his writings.
Matthew and Luke have different accounts.
Scholars and theologians have debated the meaning of the virgin birth for years.
The Greek word for “virgin” doesn’t even necessarily mean what you and I think it does. It has several translations, one being simply the phrase “young woman.”
Awhile back I heard a message by Andy Stanley, the mega-church pastor of North Point Church in Atlanta (and also the son of Baptist legend Charles Stanley). Apparently even he struggles with the whole virgin birth concept. That was shocking as most fundamental faith traditions do not question the nature of scripture and take it quite literally. He concluded that if a man could predict his death and resurrection, and leave the impact that Jesus did, he wasn’t going to get caught up in the theological arguments of the virgin birth and what it “really” meant.
As we prepare for Christmas, I think we can all stop and ask ourselves, “So what does it REALLY mean?”
Are we caught up in semantics of the story?
Or can we see and experience the bigger picture.
We can see the picture of God (Love) that embraced an empty manger and ultimately gave us a personal experience of Divine Love.
Or – we can see and experience a God who took on humanity so that we could experience heaven.
Or a God who took on poverty so that we could experience wealth.
Or a God who took on nakedness so that we can experience abundance.
God entered this world in poverty fully . . . a helpless baby in a feeding trough – so that we could see and know that God understands hunger, emptiness, and need.
God knows how very fragile we are and God offers us God’s goodness, love, and grace to fill that need.
Regardless of “how” God came through the incarnation, God did come – For me and for you.
As author Michelle Cushatt says, “God comes for those of us who are empty and hungry and worn out from ordinary life. Those of us who feel like we have no greatness to offer and no gifts to give. The manger was a gift exchange that went only one way. His gifts for our gain.”
Here these words from the Book of Matthew, Matthew’s version of the Christmas Story.
The Birth of Jesus
18-19 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.
20-23 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 son;
They will name him Immanuel (Hebrew for “God is with us”).
24-25 Then Joseph woke up. He did exactly what God’s angel commanded in the dream: He married Mary. But he did not consummate the marriage until she had the baby. He named the baby Jesus.
We can celebrate this beautiful thing.