Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Birth of Our Lord

The third joyful mystery invites us to focus on the birth of Our Lord. A child was born, this child is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Can't get much more joyful than that - so what else can be said?

Perhaps answering a question can yield some ideas worth pondering. Why all the fuss over a birth anyways? Pro-lifers always remind us that life begins when the egg is fertilized. The Chinese count a newborn baby as one year old. When the Word became Flesh, it happened nine months before Christmas day (irrelevant bible trivia from a nitpicker tired of hearing that we have no reason to believe Jesus was born in December: John was conceived around the Jewish Day of Atonement - Yom Kippur - September, Gabriel appeared to Mary when Elizabeth was six months pregnant - March, add nine months and you arrive in December).

So what changed on the night the Angels led the Shepherd to the manger? While the objective reality of the Word becoming Flesh began when Mary said "yes" to God's plan nine months before the Birth of Our Lord, the subjective reality of the "general public" interacting tangibly with Our Lord begins with birth. We have a curious reversal from the norm here. Pregnancy, while very real objectively, is for the most part a private experience of the mother alone. Child birth marks a transition to a less private situation but in some sense is more subjective. We usually think of the private as subjective and the public as objective.

Getting back to Mary's relationship with Our Lord then, it objectively began when she said "yes" to God's plan. When she gave birth, she was able to share the fruits of this relationship more fully and visibly with others. When we turn from our sins and say "yes" to God whether it be at an altar call or in a confessional, a very real but hard to notice change occurs - just like when a woman becomes pregnant. As time passes, what was very real but mostly unnoticed grows as time passes into a new life which we can share with others.

For us, accepting the Lord is like becoming pregnant and when we share our relationship with Jesus with others it is like giving birth (for some this comes with great pain). For Mary, accepting the Lord really was becoming pregnant and when she gave birth, she really was sharing her relationship with Jesus. The Holy Scriptures have shown us more than an analogy where conversion maps to becoming pregnant and evangelism maps to giving birth - they have given us an event in which the analogy is also the reality.

Up next: Two Turtle Doves, and a Partridge in a Pear Tree.

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