Christmas:Contradiction Paradox and Humiliation?

Christmas story. Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus, Son of God , symbol of Christianity hand drawn vector illustration

Christmas: Contradiction, Paradox and Humiliation?
Christmas: Contradiction, Paradox and Humiliation?

Christmas: Contradiction, Paradox and Humiliation?

When watching the ads, listening to the music and wandering through the stores online and off, it’s easy to get duped into thinking that this is merely another excuse for a long weekend. This one special because of what we get.

The words “contradiction,” “paradox,” and “humiliation,” don’t fit with Jingle Bells or magic or merriment inherent in our wishes of “Happy Holidays!” to one another, do they? In fact, they are words that make no sense when we ponder the beauty and wonder of these holy days.

So why use them at all?

Indeed.

Because Christmas is serious stuff.

And who best to explain why but C.S Lewis?

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
(Italics mine)

Lewis invites, even demands a decision.

The Christian liturgy explains how the Holy Family came to be in words which are veiled but quite clearly suggestive of gossip- there is no other word for what must have taken place.

We are told that Joseph has received information about his virginal espoused wife; information that is so damning that this just man decides to quietly divorce her in hopes that he can spare her the death by stoning that would occur to an adulterous woman.

These were very small communities where most of the villagers knew one another, where the pace was slow – slow in the sense that other neighbors had adequate opportunity to attend to the affairs of others…and to talk with one another about them…particularly when those affairs are salacious.

Surely, the observations made by the expert midwives of the village about the pregnancy of Joachim and Anne’s daughter Mary would have been cause for extended and repeated conversations; conversations which eventually reached Joseph’s ears. Explicitly, we are told that before they lived together, Mary was found with child by unnamed others. And Joseph, the just man is fully aware of the fate of Mary in the culture of their time.

We can only imagine the cost to the man as he makes his decision about her, about the circumstances which have led to her pregnancy and the number of voices taking pleasure in the bad news of others, just as today so many of us do the same.

We cannot conceive of any words she could have used to explain to him or to any others.

What could she have said?

Who would have believed her?

Why did He choose this way of appearing in our world?

Pope John Paul called his first published book as Pope, A Sign Of Contradiction after the prophecy of Simeon to the new parents of the God child, Jesus: 
“This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him.  As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.”

During these last few days as we approach Christmas, the day when we celebrate the incarnation of the Lord, I cannot dismiss this phrase, “Christmas: Contradiction, paradox and humiliation,” because it seems so completely integrated with the means by which God chose to enter time.

It was a means which could not be more puzzling, more filled with paradox and humiliation for the two people whom He chose, radically different from the adorably tranquil manger scenes so widely depicted:

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. 
Gospel of Matthew

Christmas: Contradiction, Paradox and Humiliation

CS Lewis’s words from his book, Mere Christianity bear repeating:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”

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