Sunday, December 8, 2013

Virgin Mother

After my surgery on the 17th, I'll be re-running some old posts for a while. I don't know what to expect, but I do know it'll take a while before my brain has de-fogged enough to write.

So, though that's over a week away, I've been looking through a whole lot of old posts (and I'm here to tell you, there are plenty of them!). And I found one that seems particularly apt for a cold night in Advent. 
From December of 2011:

Back when I was young and beautiful and traveling through Europe, I managed to be in Germany about the time when groups of children were practicing "Stille Nacht" for their Christmas Eve Services.  I spent about two weeks in Konstanz, Germany that December, staying with some friends of friends. My friend  (the original SK) and I did a whole lot of sightseeing based from Konstanz, and a few outings with the family. One particular evening we went to church with our host family for a Bible study led by the young pastor, who weekly held one such study for the English-speakers among his congregation.

I'm pretty sure he regretted opening that can of worms that night.  Or that the nice friendly American had brought her two house guests, because it was NOT my most stellar moment. Not by a long shot.  In fact, if I'd been in his shoes, I'd call what that young American woman did "hi-jacking" the whole study. Even as I write this I seriously cringe. But here goes:

The study that night was the Virgin Birth.  Isaiah chapter 7 is where this prophecy is found.
'The Lord spoke to Ahaz, "Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths of in the highest heights."
But Ahaz said, "I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test/"
Then Isaiah said, "Hear now, you house of David. Is it not enough to try the patience of human beings? Will you try the patience of my God also? Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call Him Immanuel..."'

For some inexplicable-to-me-now reason that night I chose to argue with that pastor that it wasn't necessary that Mary be a virgin. Necessary being the significant word. My point, and in some very broad sense it's true, was that God can do things any way He pleases and He simply chose to use a virgin to carry His son. I mean I argued this up one side and down the other. God was using the virgin as a SIGN, a symbol. And, by the way, it shouldn't be called "the virgin birth," but "the virgin mother!" (which I still actually do believe). The end. I'm mortified to remember it, especially since that poor pastor was using his second language--English--to try to help me (and the other more teachable people around the table) understand.

I've long since repented of that night. Of course. Looked back on it with horror. Don't know what got into me.  So here's the real story about Mary and her virginity.  Only a virgin would do.
Genesis speaks of part of Eve's 'curse' as being desire for her husband, and travail in childbirth.  Therefore, in some strange sense, these things we imagine to be blessings also contain trouble and strain and pain between us. They strain relationships. My guess is that Mary, the betrothed of Joseph the carpenter, was a very good girl. A girl that the people in the small town of Nazareth knew as a good girl. She wasn't wild or rebellious or given to flights of fancy. That's my guess. I think God used a 14 year old who was stable and clear-minded and trustworthy. A girl others whom inspired trust and not disbelief.  And I think He used such a girl because it was going to be hard enough to believe this thing, and would be impossible if her character was at all questionable.

Only an innocent could be the mother of the Incarnate, but not only because of this strain, but because she knew, she absolutely, positively knew that no man had touched her.That's the thing about this sign. No man touched Mary, yet there she was, pregnant. She didn't have to question because she was not pregnant and then she was--without ever having sex. Without anything other than a conversation with an angel and God, the Holy Spirit entering into an egg in her and creating the life that would be Jesus.

Yes, God could have done it some other way. He could have come down in a space ship, I suppose. But He told his people through a prophecy Ahaz refused to ask for that THIS would be how He'd do it. A way so miraculous no one would think it up. No one would be able to manufacture it.

The virgin would conceive and give birth to a son. Mary did conceive. She sang her heart out to God when He told her, because she understood what He was telling her. She knew Isaiah. Her soul magnified the Lord, her womb, already filling with the One whom she'd name Immanuel, magnified the Lord. She knew, and He--two cells dividing--knew that with that one prophecy being fulfilled all the rest were on the way to fulfillment as well.

She was His handmaiden, His instrument, the very womb of God. It's no wonder she's called the blessed mother. An ordinary teenage girl was the most important part of the most important thing God's ever done.

1 comment:

Pamela M. Steiner said...

Amen and Amen! We all have things to blush about in hindsight...our exuberance of youth and new knowledge sometimes led us to make rash statements that had not yet been tested by maturity and wisdom...but God understood...and probably winked at the young pastor and gave him the ability to clear up any misconceptions...
The important thing is...the reality of the Virgin Mother is a part of the mystery and beauty of Jesus' Nativity that we will one day clearly understand which now we can only marvel in awe...Emmanuel...God with us! Amazing Love!