the child and His mother.
She will bear a Son; and you will call His name Jesus, for He will save the people from their sins.” Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us” – Matthew 1:21-23, NASB.
The specific reasons for the call that the Son of God would be born into a world by a virgin was something I had never questioned, nor really considered. Over the past month I have been studying the relation of humanism to the study of mythology and I think I understand now why it was not only important for Christ to be born of a virgin, but absolutely necessary for this conception and to someone of little social standing and who would remain socially unimportant. I understand that statement will step on the toes of Catholicism, but hear me out – if you cannot accept all of it, than perhaps just the key points will make sense. This will be brief, of course.
Yet in the same I want to be upfront that I am not diminishing the role of Mary – God chose her and called her favored (Luke 1:28) and blessed among women (Luke 1:42). Even the courage Mary demonstrates throughout the life of Jesus, and the devotion is to be noted. When Jesus was on the cross she stood with a few others near-by, this was not just an event as though watching a sad movie, but they were surrounded by a crowd that just nailed other human beings to wood – they cried for their blood. Jesus was not a popular guy! Yet they stayed because they would not be parted from Him. This courage is amazing to me.
The element of a virgin birth is not unique to Christianity, in fact many ancient myths and traditions feature the birth of a son of a god. It’s easy to be caught on these elements and find it hard to distinguish between the accuracy of Biblical text and ancient myth. This is what led Joseph Campbell: a notable scholar on the subject, to come to the conclusion of referring to the direct interpretation of the gospels as “a blight that is a great part of the Christian cult.” Yet the distinction between the story of Christ and the tradition of myth is actually found in the differences in its similarities rather than it being something completely different.
A huge role in ancient myth is the atonement with the father, although the god-child is a son of god, he always seeks to be recognized by his father, because his father is great and distinct. The Greek tale of Phaëton is the story of the son of Helios, the god who carried the sun over the world on his chariot daily. Phaëton sought his father’s recognition so that the world would know that he was indeed the son of a god, and his request was that he would ride the chariot over the world on one day. This ended in disaster. The story of the son seeking the father is to pass through the trials of the father in order to enter into the father’s approval and a divine sense of self.
The atonement with the father, even in the biological sense, is always the journey of initiation. The father is the figure of trials and growth to the sons. This image always plays in contrast to the Divine Mother, who by her grace gives the son what he needs in order to pass the ordeals the father will put him through, in order to protect him and keep him from the father’s wrath. The reason is that justice and mercy are not seen in the same character and so these two: the Just Father and the Divine Mother, always exist in contrast to one another to balance each other out.
Imagine that faith is broken up into a bunch of small blocks. If we believe God is just and holy, it becomes difficult to find Him as equally loving and merciful without accepting that Christ’s death atones for all sin. So we put our blocks of justice and holiness to God, but the blocks of love and mercy must go be pushed somewhere else, a peace center or divine mother figure; even half accepting Christ’s work on the cross as being all and in all is to meet the end of faith and need for additional justification.
Christ was born into the world of a virgin, which means He does not have the psychological ties to a father that all boys struggle with: either for good or ill, nor the need to appeal to the father and win his approval. Many point that it was Christ’s death that initiates Him with God and therefore Christianity is another myth, but they miss the fact that Christ never said He was anything less than God in His earthly ministry, even to saying: “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30), and “Behold I have come to do Thy will, O God,” (Hebrews 10:7). Had Christ been born as another man than his primary father-center mentality would always be to His earthly father, not to God. Having been born in this manner, and still maintaining His oneness with God, He is able to enter into the world not as the Son of God as we count a child, but something entirely different – I don’t think I even fully understand it yet.
Yet, these only bring into the discussion external reasons that may impact our grasp of Christ’s birth: not only as a child but also explain why He was tempted; however, the more important examination of Biblical topics is their spiritual importance. I am not exactly sure why He chose Mary, but He picked her from many, many people – and picked her in the point of her innocence. Sexuality is difficult to grasp in our culture because it is vulgar and profane without discrimination or pretense – in fact, impurity is the expectation, yet Mary was the opposite: young, pure, and innocent. She was in the place of waiting at the transition between two worlds and God steps in and totally disrupts her reality and gives her a new dream. Beautiful doesn’t even do this justice – just read Luke 1. Yet for the extensive sermons around this time of year on this topic, I will just glance over this part and let the story speak for itself.
When we accept the atonement of Christ as everything it is than both light and dark occupy the same space: that is complete mercy and complete justice. It puts the full weight of glory into the person of Christ and takes away the blinder that would cause us to say anything is good and anything is righteous that does not first come from Him – to the end that everything is made by Him and everything is made for Him: there is no need for vengeance seeking father of the myth, and it’s not because of a divine mother, but because of His own sanctification. Anything other than this takes away from the message of the gospel (Colossians 1:4-6). He is purity.