Thursday, January 13, 2011

The dark side of Christmas

So I just completed reading this interesting small book called "A Not-So-Silent Night" that talks about the dark side of Christmas.  It is the unheard story of Christmas and why it matters by Verlyn D. Verbrugge.

Verlyn analysis the period between Mary's conception and the Magi's visit - which is usually reflected in Christmas pageants.  He suggests that the real reason Jesus was born was to die and this instigated a war in the heavens that had various earthly impacts. He also explores the cultural attitudes and responses at that time to the news of a Messiah, the King of the Jews.

The chapter that captivated me and got me thinking was chapter 4 - "Mary's Shame".  The first century was  sharply inclined to what we call today an "honor-shame culture" which was no different from the days of the Old Testament.  Having a child out of wedlock is still considered a shameful thing in many cultures around the world although it has become an acceptable way of life in western culture.  Societies have developed various tools to discourage or at least mitigate such possibilities. Some tools are extreme such as stoning to death - others are painful but not fatal - like banishment from the home.  All in all it is the girl who usually got/ or gets the raw end - as a single mother, a pariah in the community, a symbol of shame to the family and many times designated to the low-economic bracket due to unplanned costs.

Anyway, having this background, Mary accepted to be impregnated with the seed of Jesus as a virgin. She probably figured that everyone would understand and be amazed that she was carrying the Messiah that all Jews were anticipating.  But this was not so.  She was treated as a social outcast and Joseph had to come to her rescue after the angel had persuaded him that Mary's story was true.

So what is interesting to me are the circumstances orchestrated by God - who is responsible for this dark-sided Christmas story.  He got an innocent girl pregnant out of wedlock and then has the fiance shack-in with her before they were married. Was God thinking/working outside the box - so to speak? What does this say about His ways?  Would you have believed Mary story if you were there then or would you have easily judged her because of her totally "incoherent lie" - that she was impregnated by the Holy Spirit - yeah right!

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