Joseph to Mary: “Who could believe such a thing?”

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About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. John is a pastor ordained by The Progressive Christian Alliance. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. And don't forget to sign up for his mucho awesome monthly newsletter.

  • Val P.

    That truly made me cry.

  • Susan Edwards Love via Facebook

    Love this. Thanks.

  • Doug Browne via Facebook

    Thank you, John. That..that was powerful.

  • http://leap-of-fate.com Christy

    Beautiful. I’m teary too.

    Soon before our first son turned one the Iraq war began. Easter and his birthday and the Shock and Awe all coincided within weeks of each other. I connected with Mary for the first time as a mother as the sudden realization of my child’s mortality sunk in and how anguished she must have been…and how deeply she surely loved him.

  • Lymis

    I often wonder about the part where Mary asked Joseph where all the shepherds were coming from, and could he please ask them to at least wait outside for a little bit?

  • http://pastorbecca.com Becca

    This makes me wonder– although the biblical story seems to suggest that Joseph is gone by then– what they might have said to each other the night before the crucifixion. What they might have said to each other while Jesus lay in his tomb. I tried once to write a monologue for Mary upon hearing of Jesus’ resurrection. She didn’t want to believe it, because she couldn’t stand to lose him again.

    • Donald Rappe

      One of my favorite things about the risen and transfigured Christ is that he will not die again {as I imagine). He’s been there and done that! “Master, teach us so to rise!”

  • Schuyler L. Ford

    So sweet, playful and utterly poignant.

    A most compelling slant…thank you.

  • Guillaume Smit

    Where is the “like” button so I can click on it?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Thanks, Guillaume. Good to hear from you! (As far as I know, the “Like” button is where it always is, yeah? At the end of the post, just below?)

  • Christine

    so beautiful….love it…thank you.

  • Line Merrette Vincent

    Very touching. You made it so close to home, real, concrete (excuse me, I am thinking in French). As a mother of two, I thought “Imagine giving birth to your first born (delivery is often longer and difficult the first time) in a BARN in the dead of winter!”

    When I think of Joseph, he has the face of my husband, who is older than me and very caring and protective.

    Thanks for the I love you’s this couple undoubtedly exchanged, in the words of the day…

    • http://www.sparrowmilk.blogspot.com Shadsie

      Harrowing, indeed.

      I work in a barn. They *aren’t* clean. They’re like… the opposite of a hospital, definitely.

      John’s exchange was very sweet – I can imagine it being between me and my man, except we’d have weirder, darker humor that would be un-becomming.

      • LSS

        oh come on, they were jewish. i can imagine some dark humor.

  • Line Merrette Vincent via Facebook

    ♥ Lovely. I commented.

  • Brian W

    Classic John Shore……you do have the gift brother

  • http://www.facebook.com/SherryMCaudill Sherry Harrison Caudill via Facebook

    I love this, i shared. I always love your writings.

  • http://lisainbc.blogpost.com Lisa Salazar

    Here I am, crying like a school girl.

  • erika

    love.

  • Melody

    What a lovely, heartfelt post. Especially meaningful when I get too stressed from the holiday rush at work. Thanks for the reminder of what it’s really about.

  • http://www.facebook.com/JohnShoreFans John Shore via Facebook

    Thanks, you guys, very much.

  • Amelia Kilometere via Facebook

    Man, I so want to like it!! I’m just currently stuck in this…THING… about a culturally and historically accurate version of the Christmas story…

    • http://the-pet-butler.com Sherrie Roberts

      don’t feel bad. Eventually you will ENJOY this “take” on history!

    • Donald Rappe

      Me too, Amelia. I like John’s story because I recognize it as a type of fiction. I, like you, have an extreme love of accuracy. I like to know hair splitting things, that the Greek of the scriptures had no punctuation or small letters, so my own love of these parts of modern English can never come from the scriptures. (These things in translations are always fictional.) So for me there is no THE Christmas (nativity) story; there are scriptural Christmas stories, all of equal scriptural standing. Most people think first of the story in Luke. The books of Luke and Mathew are both continuations of the book of Mark, formed by including the Jesus sayings “Q” and other polishing. The book of John comes from a later generation and its writer(s) were aware of all three earlier Gospels which is evident to me because it goes out of its way to contradict a large number of specific details in the first three, including items which are specific to each of them.

      1. The writers who created Mark find nothing about the birth of Jesus worth telling. We learn he has a mother and brothers who try to save his life by stopping his teaching and taking him home. They do not succeed.

      2. The continuation into Mathew includes a genealogy which ties Jesus to King David through his father Joseph, to whom Mary was betrothed. It also includes the story of the Magi and Star, the slaughter of the Innocents and the flight into Egypt.

      3. Luke, the familiar story. It appears to be a sacred story generated by a prophecy of Isaiah, which was probably misunderstood. This story introduces the idea that Jesus was born in Bethlehem rather than Nazareth. We know that Luke sailed with Paul and shows an interest in centering the Church in Jerusalem.

      4. John tells us that all those who are loyal to Jesus have the right to be born directly from God, without need of any human father. His Phillip tells Nathaniel that Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph, is the messiah. One reason I love the Gospel of John is because it so clearly and intentionally exposes the heresy of Biblical inerrancy. It contradicts Mark’s climactic claim that Simon was the first to recognize Jesus as Christ, It completely ignores Mathew’s claim that Jesus is the Scion of David, telling us instead that he is the Logic of God made flesh who came to live with us and it noticeably undercuts Luke’s claims about the gynecological details of Jesus birth. Both John and the processes of the Church which includes John in the canon of scriptures insure we know such details are unimportant and lead us to a more authentic way of interpreting scripture.

      It all reminds me of Paul’s teaching that together we are all members of the one Body of Christ. Some synthesize sacred stories, as John has done here, some approach them with critical and analytic instincts, all members of the same body. I’m sure Luther would remember that a body needs its asshole too. I’ve raised twin infants and know one must be careful handling the diapers of Christ. That’s where we find the teaching of Biblical inerrancy. Until we wash that diaper clean, we can read and read the Bible without taking its meaning.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

        WOW! Great, great stuff, Don Rappe.

      • Donald Rappe

        Old Fred Nietzsche suggests that teachers should warn their students against themselves. I used to do this when I taught high school physics. My memory is not excellent and when it fails I’m apt to be filling the blank with my own conjecture. In this case, Mathew includes lots of Bethlehem, not just Luke. I confused my conjecture about when these stories were included with some other point. Clearly, both Mathew and Luke do Bethlehem; It is Mark and John that do not (I think!).

    • Allie

      I think the part that is culturally and historically accurate is that they were real people, and like all people in all places and all times, they were not all that different from us. We may not imagine them correctly, but we can imagine their feelings.

  • Christie Landtroop via Facebook

    oh wow.. put your favorite version of “O Holy Night” on and read it… tears flowing, for sure. <3

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Thanks, Christie. I think of that song, too.

  • http://flamidwyfe.wordpress.com Sandi

    I’m sitting here at work in Hangzhou, China a gazillions miles from family and friends in Florida with “love” tears flowing. Overhead, the hospital is playing my CD of Cheistmas songs, piped through and while reading this “Mary’s Boy Child” and “O Holy Night” played. One of those amazing good moments of the day. I am so thankful to Joseph for caring so well of Mary and to Mary for having faith!

    Thank you, John! Merry Christmas!!

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Merry Christmas, Sandi. God bless you. Thank you.

    • Donald Rappe

      Merry Christmas to you Sandi. I’m thinking of you and envying your probable access to good Chinese cooking. We have some in Brownsville, but my thoughts turn to Chicago and San Francisco. I love Chinese food. Have some for me, please!

      • http://flamidwyfe.wordpress.com Sandi

        Thanks, Donald… authentic Chinese food all around me :) I’ll think of you with the next plate I eat!

  • http://brickandtimber.wordpress.com/ DR

    So beautiful.

  • Lori Knight-Whitehouse

    Dear John,

    Thank you so much for this beautiful post. What is your policy on your posts being used in worship? I would love to do this as a dramatic reading on Christmas eve–attributed to you, of course, with blog info. Would you allow me to do this?

    Many blessings during this holy Advent season.

    Sincerely,

    Rev. Lori Knight-Whitehouse

    ps–your post on suicide a month or two back was so helpful to me and my father–my mom took her life last summer.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/ John Shore

      Hi, Lori. Yes, of course, I’d be honored to have you use this post in this way. Thank you. (If you record, lemme know, and I’ll play it on my site.) Thanks again. A blessed Christmas season to you and yours. So sorry to hear about your mom. That’s awful.

      • Lori Knight-Whitehouse

        Thanks, John!

  • Richard Lubbers

    A wonderful story, John! This makes the Christmas story very real. But more than that, it raises the question of what Jesus’ mission truly was, and is. I somehow feel like a big part of Christianity has got it wrong ever since Saul became Paul.

    Thank you for all you do and say.

  • marsha clay

    maybe that story is to humble us.I may not have much but I do have a heavenly father that cares for me, he always show up when I need him the most, he gives me strength when I need it the most, he makes a way for me when I see no way, he put people in my life to touch me for what ever the reason may be. for all this I am truly gateful. he is one person who has never failed me and I love him with all my heart and soul.

    .

  • Aquila

    This really brings it home…I was thinking, earlier, myself, about what kind of conversations Joseph and Mary might have had…

    It just really, really brings it home. It’s so easy to think ‘Mary’ and see…statues, paintings, and not even good or realistic ones…archaic words in tiny print…But she was real. And so was her husband. And so was-and is-her Son.

    Thank you.


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