Wednesday, December 19, 2012


This time of year there is a lot of talk about virgins.  Well, one in particular.  Actually, when a lot of evangelicals talk about the virgin birth, they stay away from Mary.  Talking about the Virgin Mary is too Catholic and might lead to excessive Mary-veneration, and down the slippery slope of papacy we go!   No, evangelicals prefer to talk about the virgin birth of Jesus, as if he was the only important one involved.  The virgin birth is important because it demonstrates that Jesus did not descend from an earthly father.  He is God’s Son, and if a virgin birth doesn’t prove it, what does?  So the virgin birth tells us something important about Jesus, but nothing, really, about Mary.  Or you and me.
In other words, if all the virgin birth does  is point to Jesus’ divine nature, then it is one of those things about him that we can admire but not imitate.  Like the feeding of the 5,000, which is one of those really cool things that Jesus did but none of us should ever try, so also with the virgin birth.  It’s pretty cool, but none of us can do it ourselves.
But there is a moral challenge within the virgin birth which we shouldn’t ignore, something which invites imitation rather than just admiration.  To help us see this we need to briefly skip from Jesus’ birth to his death.  In those days tombs—usually caves—would contain the bones of numerous family members, but the gospel writers note that Jesus’ body was laid in a new, unused tomb.
Connection 1: Virgin womb, virgin tomb.
Luke adds that Joseph of Arimathea, who gave the tomb for Jesus burial, was “waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God.”  And after he was laid in the tomb the women had to wait until the Sabbath was over before they could anoint Jesus’ body.  That’s a lot of waiting going on.
Connection 2: A virgin is a young woman who waits.
Oh, it would be easy to make this about sex, but the virgin birth isn’t primarily about sex before, within, or outside of marriage; it’s primarily about waiting.  The virgin birth is about waiting  rather than acting, patience rather than impatience, reverence rather than irreverence, respect rather than disrespect, and accepting to live in tension and even frustration rather than giving up and giving in to desire.   A virgin's heart accepts the pain of inconsummation rather than sleeping with the bride before the wedding.
It is from the virgin womb  that Jesus was born, and it is from the virgin tomb that Jesus also was “born” again.  Both emphasize what kind of heart and soul is needed to create the space wherein something divine can be born.
We all know only too well that our lives are full of most everything that is not virginal or pure: impatience, disrespect, irreverence, manipulation, cynicism, egotism, pride, etc.; and, as we also all know, within this matrix no messiah can be conceived and nurtured.
Only virgins' wombs bring forth messiahs because they alone live in Advent, waiting for a bridegroom who is late, who is hopelessly late, beyond the eleventh hour.  And still the virgin waits, trusting that the bridegroom has not forgotten nor forsaken her.
Still ,the virgin waits, refusing all other suitors who tell her that waiting is for fools, that her bridegroom is never coming, that waiting is unnatural.
Still, the  virgin waits, refusing impatience, delaying passion, ignoring the urge of flesh on flesh and a divine Kingdom on human terms.
Messiahs are only born in virginity's space, within virginity's patience.
Letting love be gift.
And God be God.

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