Whether it was the 25th or not seems irrelevant. The incarnation, Emmanuel, God with us: almost too good to be true, but the investment (understatement) of God into creation opens a future that takes away all the limitations. I like that it is a week before our new year… a kind of breathe in and then breathe out as we hit that Jan. 1 date.
Here are a few of my Christmas texts:
Therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a sword flaming and turning to guard the way to the tree of life (Gen. 3:23,24).
The Adam (male and female) leave the original temple travelling Eastward. God also leaves the original temple, the place where they could hear ‘the sound of the presence of God in the evening hour’. His/ her sound now muffled but never silent outside that original temple.
Then he brought me to the gate, the gate facing east. And there, the glory of the God of Israel was coming from the east; the sound was like the sound of mighty waters; and the earth shone with his glory (Ezek. 43:1,2).
Glory returning… manifest in the humanity of Jesus… manifest in a vulnerable baby. But a shining earth.
Then he brought me back to the entrance of the temple; there, water was flowing from below the threshold of the temple toward the east (for the temple faced east); and the water was flowing down from below the south end of the threshold of the temple, south of the altar (Ezek. 47:1).
Water leaving the temple… the temple is not the goal, the ‘wherever the river goes’ until…
Wherever the river goes, every living creature that swarms will live, and there will be very many fish, once these waters reach there. It will become fresh; and everything will live where the river goes… On the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing (Ezek. 47:9, 12).
Healing leaves… for the nations.
Although being a non-reflecting sort of person I always love the seasons such as Christmas, Easter and Pentecost. Just gives a little pause to think and be thankful. Also this year being a year of focused writing that has centred in on the life of Jesus as the one who was fully God and truly human I have had to consider how he grew up, certainly not the baby in the manger who ‘no crying he made’. Brings me to consider the virgin birth.
I accept the virgin birth though so little is made of it in the Scriptures. Paul with all his writings does not mention it, nor Hebrews. Maybe Paul did not know about it, maybe it was always understood as a symbol? If that was the case I could accept that for there does not seem to be any level of appeal to the virgin birth theologically in Scripture. The theology seems in some way tied to a particular approach to sin and perhaps also to sex. (The genealogy of Jesus in Matthew does not put together a ‘pure’ line: neither racially nor sexually.)
What is clear is we are not reading some kind of myth of a god encountering a young woman and through some sexual act an offspring comes forth, a demi-god. The narrative pushes us right away from that, indeed it pushes us in a feminine direction with two ‘wombs’. The womb of a young woman, and at the same time the womb of the Holy Spirit. I am not suggesting that the Holy Spirit is female any more than I suggest that ‘God’ is male. I am simply suggesting that the imagery surrounding the virgin conception is feminine. Mary makes room for the baby; the Holy Spirit likewise makes room for the incarnation. It all happened through the overshadowing, brooding, creative shaping energy of the Spirit. Just as creation came forth by the word spoken into the brooding shape of the Spirit; just as the early disciples in the upper room were overshadowed by the same brooding presence; in that same manner comes forth a male child, born of a woman, born under the law.
Not much in the narrative that features the male presence.
What a wonderful act. Although the original Christmas was unlikely to have occurred at this time of year, here we are just breaking into the days getting longer (northern hemisphere of course) and with one eye on the new year, so I find Christmas… the brooding presence of the Spirit making room for new beginnings. Not an immediate birth, but a normal human process begins. What a combination. A natural process with aches, pains, inconvenience and participation between the divine and the human.
Reflecting back on Gayle’s post of a few days ago. Time to make any adjustments that are needed. Light is here. Clouds will come. Sight is possible to set a direction, even when sight will become less clear. A process will continue.
Twins are born having been carried in one womb. A (non-literal) birth from heaven is carried in two wombs.