The scriptures and the beliefs of our church prepare us for the mystery of Christmas. God came among us as a Child and both Old and New Testaments offer God’s promise to recreate our world in its original image. We’re called to become like little children ourselves. Last night, we spoke about the spirituality of the child.
Tonight we reflect on the Gospel of Matthew and how the birth of Jesus came about.
“Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found with child through the holy Spirit.
Joseph her husband, since he was a righteous man, yet unwilling to expose her to shame, decided to divorce her quietly.
Such was his intention when, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her.
She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:
“Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,”
which means “God is with us.”
When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home.
He had no relations with her until she bore a son,* and he named him Jesus.”
Matthew’s account is summarized in the creed. “I believe in Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God…who by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary.”
Is this true? Here’s Pope Benedict:
“The answer is an unequivocal yes. Karl Barth pointed out that there are two moments in the story of Jesus when God intervenes directly in the material world: the virgin birth and the resurrection from the tomb, in which Jesus did not remain, nor see corruption. These two moments are a scandal to the modern spirit. God is “allowed” to act in ideas and thoughts, in the spiritual domain–but not in the material. That is shocking. He does not belong there. But that is precisely the point. God is God and he does not operate merely on the level of ideas. In that sense, what is at stake in both of these moments is God’s very godhead. The question that they raise is: does matter also belong to him?
“Naturally we may not ascribe to God anything nonsensical or irrational, or anything that contradicts his creation. But here we are not dealing with the irrational or contradictory, but precisely with God’s creative power, embracing the whole of being. In that sense, these two moments – the virgin birth and the real resurrection from the tomb–are the cornerstones of faith. If God does not have the power over matter then he is simply not God. But he does have this power, and through the conception and resurrection of Jesus Christ he has ushered in a new creation. So as the Creator he is also our Redeemer. Hence the conception and birth of Jesus Christ from the Virgin Mary is a fundamental element of our faith and a radiant sign of hope.”
(The Infancy Narratives: Jesus of Nazareth, Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVI, pp 56-57 )