Saturday, December 20, 2008

Virgin Birth

Why Belief in an Impossible Truth Matters.

It is the miracle of the metaphorical truth flying in the face of the world’s insistence that truth must be comprised of facts, that truth must be real. In this season we are confronted with a truth that cannot be denied…the truth of God’s love and desire to partner with us. As we journey towards Christmas we are called to embrace the impossible truth of a God who walks among us and partners with us. We are called to embrace the possibility of what may seem impossible. In the Gospel we are confronted with an angel, an emissary from God, who tells a young woman that she is pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit and will bear a son. Tradition states that the young woman was an unwed mother, a virgin. And, to some the insistence upon this as “truth” has become a stumbling block. But, it is a truth that is not tied to facts—for in the end, what does her virginity matter?

But it is a truth that amongst the innocent the world can be transformed. That in the face of despair, hope prevails. I’ve been reflecting on the reality of what an unwed mother would have faced in Mary’s time: shame, punishment and even death. And, in the face of that reality, Mary’s acceptance of this pregnancy becomes a radical act of hope in the face of a reality that offered little but despair. Reality is a scared young woman, reality is poverty, reality is suffering and teen pregnancy. Reality is loss of jobs and loss of dreams. Reality is pain, illness and death. When I last preached I spoke about the reality that the sufferings of the apocalypse are already here. And today I continue that conversation…the reality of hope and impossible love is real as well. Mary dares to say “yes” in the face of her own reality—a yes grounded in a promise made long before she was born. Mary dares to say “yes” because God’s covenant with David still holds.

In the end Mary’s virginity represents innocence and in Mary’s innocence she did not let her reality stand in the way of the awesome and incredible. She did not let fear prevail and instead embraced a greater truth. This celebration of birth is the annual reminder that love wins, it is the annual reminder that saying “yes” can be a dangerous act of liberation. It is the annual reminder that God’s love is possible and God’s promise still holds. It is the annual reminder that we are called into partnership with God and in our Christmas preparations we instill wonder in ourselves and each other. As a child I readily accepted the impossible—and now as an adult I am asked to accept the impossible again and in doing so I remember Jesus’ admonishment that we must be as children to enter the kingdom of heaven.

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