From Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 1… after the extensive family tree, Mary’s pregnancy is covered rather briefly ‘she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit’… as if that happens all the time! One suggestion made to me was that many religions around that time claimed that their deity or hero was born of a virgin, so in one sense this was simply a standard requirement on the Religion Founder’s application form… standing in the office answering the questions: parentage on fathers side? ‘God’, yes, thats fine, and on your mothers? ‘virgin birth’, oh good, lets carry on to section B…miracles in your early years.
Or maybe thats just me.
The thing is, I can recall loads of discussion about the virgin birth at theology college- was she really, was it just a translation, was it the standard deity requirement, was it important either way…etc. And since I left college I cannot recall a single instance where someone has either become a Christian because of believing in the virgin birth or where its been a big question that needed addressing as they explored the claims of Christianity and began to encounter God. It seems to be a non-issue in the real world.
Because if Jesus was the son of God and rose from the dead, whether Mary was or wasn’t a virgin really isn’t the biggest thing…
And if Jesus wasn’t the son of God and all the Christians in history have been sadly deluded, then the virgin birth isn’t going to make a difference…
Its one of those things that have importance in the light of the bigger questions- was Jesus the son of God?… could he forgive sins?… did he rise from the dead?… and of course did he sweat? (ok, the last isn’t a universally asked question, I’ll admit)
I don’t make this comment to belittle the huge respect many people have for Mary- she was the mother of the son of God, she was a chosen servant of God who found favour in his eyes… but i just note that in the big scheme, its not the question people are asking.
The challenge is to listen hard enough to hear the questions that people are asking of God and of Christians, and then to try and walk with them while the explore the possible answers.
So yesterday I said I was going to post about the virgin birth, and then today I’ve ended up not writing this until almost midnight… the two are not connected- I have not been avoiding this or spent the day crafting a piece of beautiful prose.