Sunday, December 20, 2009

the logic of the Incarnation: Mary where’d you get your baby from

Here’s a snippet of Sunday’s sermon – in response to a bus-stop conversation last Christmas, and to the media coverage of a certain billboard put up by a church in Auckland.

There’s been a lot of media coverage, TV, newspaper, of a certain billboard put up by a church in Auckland. Asking questions about how Jesus was born. How did this mission of God begin?

In Luke 1:31-32, Mary has been told: You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.

Which always raises the how question? If you’ve got a son, then who’s the dad? Who’d you get your baby from Mary? How does Incarnation, God in flesh, happen?

It’s certainly Mary’s first question, her response to the angel, Luke 1:34: How will this be, since I am a virgin.”

And it’s not just Luke. It’s also in Matthew 1:25 –But [Joseph] had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And in Mark 6:3, isn’t this Mary’s son. And in Paul, in Galatians 4:4.

And the first ever bishop of Antioch, man named Ignatius, appointed by the apostle Paul. Matyred about 80 years after Jesus. Who wrote to one of his churches, Letter to Smyrna 1:1 “truly born of a virgin.”

So from the very start of Christianity, three gospels and in Paul and in early church – always this whiff of scandal? If you’ve got a son, then who’s the dad? Who’d you get your baby from Mary?

Christianity has been very careful to offer some guidance. In the Nicene Creed

We believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father;

Note the careful wording. Jesus as begotten, not made. No made as in not a divine God mating with a human woman.

Not made. But begotten, a miracle that is unique, outside our frames of reference, without aid of any man, divine or human. That’s the angel’s reply in Luke 1:35 – The Holy Spirit will come on you.

Which has some logical implications.

  • it lets God be God. If God is God, if God is the maker of heaven and earth, then by logical definition, God should be doing things that at times our outside our frames of reference. Things that defy rational, human explanation.
  • logically, God must value human bodies. Babies. Who become toddlers that walk, with feet and hands that get dirty. Who become teenagers with hormones. Passions. Feelings. Senses. The Word becoming flesh. So, logically, bodies and feelings and senses aren’t bad. They’re part of how God saves the world.
  • logically, that God obviously isn’t afraid of scandal. Isn’t afraid of taking a risk and of being misunderstood. Offering heaven’s best, needing a peasant girl to say yes to an illegitimate child.

This is the logic of the Incarnation. That gives shape to our mission here at Opawa. Mission starts with God. Mission must care for bodies and soul, must value senses and feelings and passions. Mission shouldn’t be afraid of scandal and being misunderstood and taking a risk.

Posted by steve at 05:10 PM

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