Monday, December 19, 2011

Advent Reflection #23: The Elephant in the Room (or Sanctuary)

The elephant in the room in regard to Christmas is the virgin birth.

No one has to have a hart time believing in refugees, a birth in a cave, and visiting shepherds.  Of course, angels stretch the imagination, but if you can accept a virgin birth, you can accept angels and an unnatural star.  The virgin birth is necessary as a sign and fulfillment of prophecy, mainly.  But there is some theological necessity, at least I have been taught, about the virgin birth.  It is, in this teaching (which I am not disputing, only repeating) that because there was no earthly father involved in Christ's birth, that he had no sin nature, that the sin nature comes through the father.  I don't know about that.  The question of how Jesus was sinless has plagued the faith for centuries.  Was he sinless because he had no sin nature (obviously if divine he could not have had one) and/or because he did not sin by choice?  Well, both. 

It all comes back to the nature of the trinity.  Jesus was not half man and half God, some kind of mythical beast.  He was/is totally both.  A person couldn't be half God anyway, when you think about it.

These are eternal questions the church has struggled with for a long time, and I'm not going to figure them out here.  As I read recently, every analogy about the Trinity breaks down into heresy even if it serves as a good starting point.  Suffice it to say that you can't have a Christmas birth without a virgin birth, and for that reason maybe we shouldn't be so upset with secularists who want to take the Christian out of Christmas. Maybe they are just being honest and forcing us Christians to see the real difference, to acknowledge it.  Don't put up a creche as a political statement; put it up because the virgin did conceive miraculously and delivered the unique deliverer of the world, not just a good teacher who told us to serve the poor and downtrodden (although that he did.

We need imagination for faith.  But faith is not imagination.

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