Significantly, Joseph’s decision regarding Mary is our decision today regarding Earth. When we realize we have no life without her, do we not recognize Earth as our Great Mother? Civilization’s ways, dominated by patriarchy, continue to disgrace her abusively. By treating her as a thing to use rather than a being to love, “civilized” consciousness is unable to accept marrying her. Consequently, civilization is “stoning” her – her land, waters, and atmosphere.
Entries in christology (6)
Telling the Christmas story to include what others leave out can release more of its impact. Matthew does just that. His good model urges us to tell the story as a compelling alternative to versions tailored to fit civilization’s purposes! Here’s what I mean. In the genealogy of the unholy, holy family by which Matthew leads up to the birth event, we are not surprised to see Jesus‘ revered ancestor, King David. But when Matthew makes sure to include the most earthy, least flattering, ego-protecting incidents in this Hebrew hero’s life, we have to know something exceptional is going on. Matthew does it with just one word: Bathsheba.
You needn’t be a synagogue or church regular to have heard of Rahab. She has made her way into cultural lore as a kind of archetype of the whore, the seductress, the escort, the “pretty woman.” But has she ever been part of the Christmas story as you’ve heard it or told it?
Matthew, for his money, wants Rahab in the Christmas story. She rescues it from the smooth stone kind of story that fits civilization’s etiquette. She lures us into a different kind of story. We stammer a bit when we come to her in this “holy” story as we explain why “Her Unholiness” is there at all. So why did Matthew clearly relish her being in the story as he told it?
Have you ever heard the Christmas story told in a way that included a woman named Tamar? Perhaps no one has. But that’ s how Matthew tells the story of the birth of Jesus. We have to ask, “Why?” Well, by 80 or 90 CE, when Matthew was writing his gospel, it was six decades after Jesus’ life. Matthew was part of the Jesus movement, his life having been transformed by the divine consciousness Jesus embodied. Furthermore, he saw how the Christ consciousness of Jesus was transforming the world views of all who sought to embrace it. Instead of being shaped by empire-think and control, the more people got into Christ consciousness the more their world views became shaped by caring, cooperation, and interdependence.
Artists depict the holy family of Christmas on everything from cards to pieces hung in galleries. One pose that has may variations shows Joseph standing with a staff and looking over Mary’s shoulder. Both of them are focused on their newborn lying in a manger. The scene is iconic and conveys a holy hush.
Mothers and fathers everywhere are photographed similarly holding their newborn in adoration and quiet amazement at this new life now in their lives. Though these poses also hold a sense of the sacred, only Joseph, Mary, and Jesus are called “the holy family.”
Jesus was born in Bethlehem, within time, in a particular place; by contrast, Christ was and is from the beginning. As John says, “In the beginning was the Logos.” To say, “Christ was born in Bethlehem,” is a theological affirmation, not a historical statement. The Christmas songs we sing are filled with theology linking Christ with Jesus. Such connections can be exciting, soul-nourishing, and transformative. My point here is that using Jesus and Christ interchangeably, without awareness of how they have separate lineages and definitions, fuzzes over important distinctions between them. With the loss of those distinctions, the Christ of the cosmos gets reduced to proportions of history—a serious mistake, and never more so than when we are up against the stories of empire and consumer economics.