Lenten Devotional: March 6th
Conceived of the Holy Ghost, Born of the Virgin Mary
The Apostles' Creed was not written "willy nilly" (Oh dear, I just became my grandmother). Each line serves a purpose to affirm or deny a theological controversy or disagreement of the day.
Of course there were people worrying about the state of Mary's virginity after the birth of Christ; this line is really in there to draw attention to Jesus' humanity. In the Apostles Creed and in our Christian faith we affirm that Jesus was born from a human woman. He was not *poofed* into being by divine magic on earth. He came into the world the messy way we all did. Mary's virginity adds some, err.... pizazz to the story, but it shouldn't be the main focus.
First of all the idea that Jesus, both son of God and God himself, grew in Mary's womb (a traditionally "unclean" place in the holiness code) was a game changer. That God could be in a woman's inner body was a game changer and a hard concept for new believers to grasp.
When we affirm his humanity it means that we believe that Jesus shared many of our universal human experiences. He felt hunger, fear, love. He experienced pain, temperature changes, and perhaps sickness. He ate and digested the same way we do. He breathed the same air and his body had the same mortal limitations of our own. He was a real life human baby who probably refused to sleep more than 4 hours a night for the first 6 months of his life despite his divinity. I'm comforted by an image of Mary and Joseph bouncing the Christ child gently trying to figure out what exactly is making him cry between 7 and 8pm every single night.
This matters. And it matters that we don't accidentally talk about Jesus like he has a human "side" and divine "side." He is completely human and at the same time completely divine. Yes, this is a contradiction and a paradox, but Jesus will not be bound by our silly human vocabularies. (Welcome to dialectical theology.)
"The nativity mystery conceived from the Holy Spirit and born from the Virgin Mary," means, that God became human, truly human out of his own grace. The miracle of the existence of Jesus, his "climbing down of God" is: Holy Spirit and Virgin Mary!
Here is a human being, the Virgin Mary, and as he comes from God. Jesus comes also from this human being. Born of the Virgin Mary means a human origin for God. Jesus Christ is not only truly God, he is human like every one of us. He is human without limitation. He is not only similar to us, he is like us."
– Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics Volume IV
Today sing or hum this Christmas song, and think about the man we sing about:
Jesus is our childhood's pattern,
day by day like us he grew;
he was little, weak, and helpless,
tears and smiles like us he knew:
and he feels for all our sadness,
and he shares in all our gladness.
– Once in Royal David's City
Rev. Kelly Staples, Associate Pastor, NorthPark Presbyterian Church