Fourth Sunday of Advent
In the sixth month, the angel Gavri’el was sent by God to a city in the Galil called Natzeret, to a virgin engaged to a man named Yosef, of the house of David; the virgin’s name was Miryam. Approaching her, the angel said, “Shalom, favored lady! Adonai is with you!” She was deeply troubled by his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, “Don’t be afraid, Miryam, for you have found favor with God. Look! You will become pregnant, you will give birth to a son, and you are to name him Yeshua. He will be great, he will be called Son of Ha‘Elyon. Adonai, God, will give him the throne of his forefather David; and he will rule the House of Ya‘akov forever — there will be no end to his Kingdom.” “How can this be,” asked Miryam of the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered her, “The Ruach HaKodesh will come over you, the power of Ha‘Elyon will cover you. Therefore the holy child born to you will be called the Son of God. CJB
The names shown here are English transliterations of the Hebrew names. You can probably identify most easily enough, but Ruach HaKodesh is the Holy Spirit.
Christians today have a wide variety of opinions on this passage of scripture. Some reject all of it as hyperbole. Some even say that Miryam became pregnant the old-fashioned way and invented the story to cover her mistake. Most allow for the possibility that God might have been involved, but they reserve the right to be suspicious.
One of the biggest problems the virgin birth faced in the First Century was the existence of numerous such stories from Greek, Roman, and other mythologies, including that Julius Caesar was thus born. That at first might seem to be an advantage, but people were modern; they rejected the stories as silly.
While accepting Jesus as the Son of God, Mark and John avoided the virgin birth altogether, though John did say that Jesus was God.
Why should we accept this story as true? Can we take it with skepticism? Can we ignore it and still be Christian?
I can’t answer those questions for you, but I can give you food for thought. A quick history lesson on American Christianity. In the late Nineteenth Century, a movement developed among many protestant churches called Modernism. The Modernist rejected things like the six-day Creation and the virgin birth as pleasant stories to help us believe in God. Now that we live in a scientific world, we need not accept such portions of the Bible as scientific facts.
Then about the turn of the century, the Fundamentalist movement arose to counter the Modernist. They preached the literal understanding to be the only true faith (though eating pork and shrimp was OK). They also insisted that true Christians must remove themselves from society to avoid the corrupting influences of Darwin, Freud, et. al.
The next growth was the Evangelicals, who were fundamentalists opposed to the notion of opting out of society. They instead insisted on working within society to change the culture into a true Christian one. In the 1970’s they split into two groups; those dedicated to taking over the government and those concentrating on saving the lost.
Many other things are going on in American Christian history, so don’t take this as the complete picture, but it gives a broad view of where we are today. There are Modernist Christians, Fundamentalist Christians, political Evangelical Christians, and non-political Evangelical Christians, and many who have taken other roads.
Wherever you fit on the scale, consider these points.
The Virgin Birth was accepted in the Second Century by every church leader, many of whom had walked with one or more Apostles or disciples from the days of Jesus. Remember, this was a time of general rejection of such notions.
Once you accept Jesus as the Son of God, the details of impregnating Miyram are meaningless unless you limit the power of God. We know today that simply adding male DNA to female DNA will result in a new living being. God, who invented DNA, should find that task almost too simple. Did He add male DNA to Miyram’s DNA, or did he create a full set of DNA to introduce into her womb? We cannot know, nor does it matter.
Theologically, it would be tougher to argue that half of the DNA was Miyram’s because that would mean that he inherited the sin of Adam. My opinion now is that Jesus was the result of a perfect genome from God, such as He gave to Adam before the fall. I reject the Roman position that Mary was also perfect, mainly because nothing in the entire Bible supports the notion. She was a good and obedient woman—a teenager at the time, no doubt—willing to put her faith in the words of an angel.
“You have a relative, Elisheva, who is an old woman; and everyone says she is barren. But she has conceived a son and is six months pregnant! For with God, nothing is impossible.” Miryam said, “I am the servant of Adonai; may it happen to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her. CJB
We can read the extended version of John’s birth in Luke, but this is an excellent summary. What is stressed here is the power of God. The same God, so Miryam believed, who made it possible for 90-year-old Sarah to give birth to Isaac. Doing the same for Elisheva would not surprise her; it would make it easier to accept that she would have a child of God. Miyram at once says, I am the servant of Adonai.
May we all be as willing to serve God.
Be righteous and do good.