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Conception Concept Conniptions

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Sermon for the fourth Sunday in Advent (Mattins)
Do you believe that Our Lord Jesus Christ was born of a virgin?
Whether you do or not, you might find the idea just a little bit too invasive in the life of Our Lady whom we call the Blessed Virgin Mary. But is it important?
Of course it is, and for good reason.
If Our Lady were not a virgin, then any claim that Jesus is the Son of God would be utterly doubtful. The virginity of Our Lady points very clearly to Our Lord being both Divine and Human and therefore capable of saving the human race.
If Our Lord has a human father, then how could he be any more the son of God than each one of us? What would single Him out as our Saviour?
And yet, people do doubt that Our Lady conceived by the Holy Ghost.
Do you?
There is a Holy Doubt that comes from our genuine confusion about what to believe. Our experience is clear, a baby has both a father and a mother. In our experience, a woman does not become a mother without a man being the father. It is natural to be sceptical about one-off events, but given that the birth of Our Lord is the single most important birth in our history we can’t really say otherwise.
A Holy Doubt says to God, “Lord, I believe. Help Thou my unbelief.” The desire to have faith will result in it being given.
And then there is a pernicious doubt that eats away at our faith in God.
There are some who will say that Jesus’ birth is pure legend. They will bring up the fact that the Roman God Mercury was born of the virgin Maia and the God Jupiter, or that Krishna was immaculately conceived of Devaka, or that Horus was born of the Goddess Isis in the same way.
Does it worry you?
It shouldn’t for two reasons. First, when people say that Our Lord’s birth of the virgin Mary is pure myth, then they assume that a virgin birth must be always be myth. It’s like saying, “this bird hidden in the box is a swan and all swans are white, so this bird must be white.” That might be true if your experience of swans is that they are all white, but the fact is, whether you know it or not, there are such things as black swans. Just because other religions have myths of virgin births, doesn’t mean that the virgin birth of Our Lord is a myth.
Second, the virgin birth of Our Lord is unlike any of the myths with which the enemies of our Faith like to beat us. In this case, there are eye-witnesses, shepherds, Magi, St Joseph, even Our Lady herself. We have their testimony wrapped up in our Holy Scripture not just as a religious text but as History. These bear witness of the truth even though it might damage their reputations.
Is it possible to be a Christian and not believe in the Virgin Birth? Again, this depends on whether such a person is suffering from a Holy Doubt which seeks God, or that pernicious doubt that refuses to believe and tries to supply evidence contrary to the facts.
The Church believes that Our Lord was born of the Virgin Mary and says so in all three creeds. The Church regards it as a fact and seeks to help Christians to affirm those facts.
Yet, we can’t make you believe and nor should we. When the Church has tried to enforce belief on people, the results have been shocking and far from charitable. People need to be free to believe, even if they do not believe the teaching of the Church. The understanding of the Church is clear: the virgin birth is evidence of Jesus’ Divinity; if He had an earthly father, there would be no reason for us to believe that He was the Son of God.”
Yet, the Virgin Birth is more than just a dogma and a teaching, it is an invitation to us.
In God and Mary we have a relationship like none other. We are presented with a faithful God and a faithful Human bringing to birth God the Son. We see a God who cares about the human family and seeks to enter into the human family Himself so that we might enter into the Divine Family with Him. The Human family is a unit which should be unbreakable: mother-father-child. Nothing from outside can enter into that relationship without the consent of all three. Whether children are born or adopted, they enter into a relationship of what should be consent, love, and intimacy.
We enter into the family of Father-Son-Spirit through Father-Mary-Jesus by adoption and by everyone’s consent. This is the invitation that God the Father offers us when He makes Mary the Mother of God and Jesus our brother. If God were not Jesus’ father, this would not be possible.
Behold! A Virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name Emmanuel – God with us!

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