Mysteries, Symbolism & Metaphysics of the Christmas Story

Published December 9, 2014 by

The Chosen Vessel

We all know the traditional stories of Christmas:  Mary, chosen by God to give birth to Jesus, the Wise Men following the Star, and the Shepherds in the fields keeping watch over their flocks.  Do we enfold ourselves in the beauty and wonder of this moment, silent and adoring, or do we dash madly through the season? Do we open our hearts to God to experience the birth of the Christ Child?

Do we ever pause to wonder why neither Mark, the first Gospel written, nor John, the last written, nor even Paul mention the Virgin Birth?  Did they consider the story too well know to include, not important enough to include, or was it unknown to all three writers?  Wouldn’t the Sanhedrin have  been forced, if not eager to view Jesus as the fulfillment of the prophecies of Isaiah and Micah had they known of the Virgin Birth?

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.*

For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder… Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,*

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.”**

Let me say unequivocally before pursuing these questions further, that I believe that God as Creator of all that is, is more than capable of creating a Virgin Birth.  I just don’t think He needed to do so.  God had the chosen vessel in Mary and in Joseph the man chosen to raise Jesus as his son. And in bringing Jesus into the world as fully human, the message of empowerment for each of us becomes even stronger.

The only meaning which a symbol possesses is that which we invest in it.  It is our point of view, our religious and cultural background which define the meaning and power of any given symbol.  Historically, a tribal totem represents the power or attributes of an animal which the tribe claims for itself.  Religious symbols can carry multilayers of meaning, as does the cross.  For many, the cross represents the Crucifixion, which in turns represents redemption to believers. For others, the cross represents the transformation from human to divine.

In Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, the gammandian cross is sacred.  Unfortunately for them, Hitler chose to use it as a symbol of Nazi power, calling it the swastikathe same symbol with drastically different meaning.  The American Flag is a patriotic symbol in America, but is often viewed overseas in as a symbol of American power and dominance.

When scientists and historians tackle the Bible in an attempt to prove or disprove the factual truth therein, discord abounds. The scientist wants verifiable and reproducible facts.  The historian wants to verify recorded incidents and people in the Bible with other, outside sources.  The real problem is that the Bible is not about fact, but faith. Does this mean that we can blithely ignore all scholarship on the Bible?  Not really–that qualifies as blind faith and far too many modern seekers of faith find that sort of mindset incomprehensible.

Biblical scholars continue to seek clarity in their studies, and many of these scholars have concluded that the miraculous birth stories about Jesus were added later to include Old Testament prophecies to prove that Jesus Christ was the true Messiah.  According to John Dominic Crossan***, there are two forms of prophecy.  Projective prophecy, the most well known, involves looking forward to the future and predicting what will happen if nothing which is seen in this moment is changed.

Suppose on the day of his election in 1960, someone predicted that President John Kennedy would be assassinated in November 1963, which proved to be true.  That would be a projective prophecy which was fulfilled.  But suppose the morning of November 23rd, JFK woke up with a really bad case of the flu and cancelled his visit.  The prophecy was true at that moment in which it was made, but later changed by events.

A retrojective prophecy looks backward to Biblical prophets of the Old Testament, searching for prophecies about the coming Messiah.  Wow, look at Isaiah 7:14 and 9:6-7!  We need a virgin birth in the line of David.  And look at Micah 5:2.  He needs to be born in Bethlehem, not Nazareth!

In Israelite history, David was much more than a monarch.  He was like Arthur, the once and future king.  As waves of social injustice, foreign domination and colonial exploitation swept cross Jewish territory, people imagined, hoped and dreamed of a future Davidic leader who would bring back the peace and glory of a bygone age.***

Matthew begins with genealogy, tracing the unbroken line from King David down through Joseph to Jesus–which makes no sense if God is the ‘biological/spiritual’ Father of Jesus rather than Joseph. Luke uses a worldwide census by the Romans to get Mary and Josephus to Bethlehem in time for the birth of Jesus.

Right off, there are problems with that census.  The Romans did use the census on a worldwide basis to establish and update their tax roles.  But there wasn’t one held during that time frame. Neither would they have required each adult male to return to his birthplace–they’d count him right were he worked for tax purposes.

The Early Church tried to make the facts fit the prophecy to convince both the Jews and the Roman world that the Jesus whom they had crucified was the true Messiah.  Oddly enough, the Roman historians had no problem with virgin births and divine conception since they often claimed it for their own Caesars. What they absolutely reject is that Jesus, a nobody and the son of peasants, could be divine.

Yet God has chosen Mary to be the vessel for the Christ Child.  She becomes a symbol for purity and simplicity throughout Christianity, worshiped as the Mother of God.  Metaphysically, we would call Mary open and receptive to the will of God.

Now comes the most important question of all:  would you prefer the Jesus born of Mary and Joseph or the one born of Mary and God?  If you think the answer is a no-brainer, then consider this:  Jesus taught and demonstrated the Truth.  Jesus said

Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; ****

If Jesus spoke as the Son of God, then how could we ever hope to equal the works he performed?  But if  He spoke as a Child of God, as are we, born of Mary and Joseph, then He was truly teaching us one  human being to another how to live life in accord with the Word and to fulfill our divine potential here on earth

Rev. Claudia Naylor

Isaiah 7:14; 9:6-7*
Micah 5:2**
John 14:12****

 

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