Birth of a baby!
Approaching Christmas Eve many of us are thinking about the BIRTH OF A BABY because that is the focus/gist of Christian Christmas. Have YOU thought about MARY's PREGNANCY for the birth of a baby? My own experience in Christian churches is that seldom is there attention given to the FACT that MARY was PREGNANT! PREGNANT through 9 months with a natural birth as for the vast majority of mothers giving birth.
I was AWAKENED when my wife, Marilyn and I went to NORWAY for Advent – Christmas 2002 and New Year's – Epiphany 2003. We were in NORWAY on time to celebrate Marilyn's birthday on the traditional Scandinavian observance of Luciadag (12/13). We love NORWAY in WINTER! If you want to healthy vision of NORWAY in WINTER, I urge you to see Disney's «FROZEN.» A Norwegian reviewer gave his review an enthusiastic title, «Beautiful Disney version of Norwegian winter»! I agree! Enjoy «FROZEN»!
Visiting a long time friend whom we met in her local Lutheran (State) Church, Marilyn and I were STARTLED to see the Advent scene. See the photo which Marilyn took. What do YOU think STARTLED Marilyn and me? I honestly had never seen that kind of Advent scene anywhere. Have YOU?
That experience has enriched my own ADVENT each year since 2002. It inspired a message which I used in the Gudstjeneste (Service of Worship) at the Juletrefest (Christmas Tree Festival) which was held for several years at Lutherdale, Elkhorn, WI. Truth be told, I have used that message different times through the years. I was Guest Pastor at Luther Valley Lutheran Church, Beloit, on the First Sunday of Advent this year and I used the message with updates.
The gist of the message is that the Scriptures make a major emphasis on the fact that Mary was PREGNANT! Review the reports in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Some older translations describe Mary as «heavy» or «great» with child when she traveled with Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem for the required Roman census. WHY did they go to Bethlehem? Because JOSEPH was of the «house and lineage of David».
Luke tells us that while they were in Bethlehem Mary gave birth to a baby. Faithful to God's instructions to them, they named him: Jesus.
The birth of this baby as a real baby whose mother was pregnant is requisite for Christians as a foundation for the doctrine of INCARNATION. That is, Jesus was God in human flesh. The Gospel of John says it in a different way, «The Word became a human being and lived here with us.» Christian scripture also asserts that Jesus was fully human in every way experiencing hunger, thirst, tiredness, discomfort, sexual arousal. This is crucial for INCARNATION to have REAL MEANING for us – humankind. There is also the crucial assertion, Jesus did not sin. He did experience all kinds of temptation. He did NOT sin.
Reflecting on PREGNANCY, I ask YOU to think about the fact that MARY traveled with JOSEPH on the approximate 90 mile trip from Nazareth all the way to Bethlehem. The trip took about 7 days – a full week – on a donkey with rough roads and rough inns. Most travelers were men.
If you want to read more about Jesus' birth, I recommend Jim Bishop's THE DAY JESUS WAS BORN. Unfortunately this little gem is now out-of-print, but you can probably get it from a local library. It is a VERY interesting little book. It is “little”/short because we know almost NOTHING about the birth of Jesus. Bishop develops a GOOD book using historical and anthropological evidence from the time of Jesus' birth in terms of Jewish and Roman culture. The book is, however, essentially a work of FICTION.
My summary of Bishop's The Day Christ Was Born is: solid cultural background – Joseph most likely 19 and Mary most likely 15; “betrothed” = “commitment of marriage” – “widow” if Joseph died before wedding ceremony; “divorce” if did NOT follow through on wedding ceremony;
ARRIVAL in Bethlehem – Mary knew “her time had come” and uged Joseph to make arrangements for a room. Census time with town full of travelers… NO ROOM IN THE INN was NOT meanness by the Innkeeper, but just plain “NO VACANCY”! Stable/cave, perhaps, as Bishop writes, under the Inn provided by the thoughtful concern of the Innkeeper and his wife.
BIRTH of Jesus - JOSEPH with MIDWIFE for Mary. Jewish culture: Jewish world women ALWAYS took care of women!!! Like in the developing world today and among indigenous peoples.
JESUS was born of woman – Remember Galatians 4:4 – “4 But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman,…” JESUS born as every baby in the human experience!
I believe that humankind rejoices when a baby is born regardless of religion. For Christians, the birth of this baby to MARY and JOSEPH in Bethlehem whom they named, JESUS is very meaningful and hopeful. Christians believe that God so loved the world that he gave his only son, JESUS…. Read John 3:16-17.
I PRAY for you all – each and every one – a meaningful and blessed holiday time this CHRISTMAS!
John W. Eyster