Mary, Did You Know that Everything You Believed is Changing?

Mary, Did You Know that Everything You Believed is Changing? December 18, 2022

“Wait—what?” Mary said when the angel told her about the upcoming virgin birth. The story of the annunciation proves that Christmas is all about deconstructing your religion.

Deconstruction involves dismantling your religion brick by brick and then rebuilding it (or not) based on your new truth.  Believe it or not, Christmas is all about that!  It was as if the angel said to her, “Mary, did you know that everything you believed is changing?”  As a fourteen-year-old girl, Mary had to decide what to do with that.

Nativity scene
Image by Gerhard from Pixabay

Monotheism Challenged

Mary grew up in an observant Jewish home with a handful of suppositions she inherited from her religious community.  Gabriel’s announcement would throw a monkey wrench into all of that, causing her to rethink what it meant to be a monotheist.  Of course, trinitarianism was a later development within Christian theology, and it’s likely that Mary never thought of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit as a trinity.  But her traditional Jewish monotheism was obliterated by the notion of God conceiving a child within her, and that offspring also being divine.  

 

The Virgin Birth

Maybe this Christmas, like Mary, you’re finding your theology likewise challenged.  Most obviously, the nativity brings up questions of virgin birth–and whether you believe that’s possible.  Even if you default to “nothing is impossible with God,” there’s the question of why God would choose to do it in the first place.  The virgin birth is necessary if you believe in the doctrine of original sin, the idea that the taint of sin passes down from one generation to the next through the seed of a male parent.  Virgin birth eliminates that contagion and produces a “sinless” Jesus. This means that without sperm used for conception, Jesus did not inherit original sin.  For many who have rejected the notion of original sin, virgin birth no longer becomes necessary.  Other theological issues may arise for you this season, and if you’re like Mother Mary, you’ll meet them with a willingness to reconsider.

 

Joseph’s Deconstruction of the “Biblical Family”

If Mary was challenged by the ramifications of Christmas, her husband-to-be was, too.  Joseph was a carpenter who knew a lot about construction—but Christmas would force him to learn about deconstruction as well.  Like his betrothed, Joseph understood “biblical marriage” to follow one particular pattern.  First, a marriage is arranged by a matchmaker or the parents of the bride and groom.  Then, the couple exchanges betrothal vows in a public ceremony.  After that, the groom goes to prepare a home for his bride.  Finally, when everything is ready, he throws a surprise wedding party.

Joseph’s flexibility showed his willingness to deconstruct what he’d always been taught, and rebuild it in the image of his new truth.  Instead of giving up on Mary and putting her away quietly when he learned she was pregnant out of wedlock, Joseph did the unthinkable.  He agreed to become the stepdad of the Son of God, and then took his new family to raise them in a whole other place, far from the judgmental gaze of traditionalists at home.  Joseph’s Christmas deconstruction led him to a new understanding of what a “biblical” family structure looks like.

This holiday season, your notion of “traditional biblical marriage” might be challenged.  Maybe your guests include your dad’s new boyfriend.  Or your gender-nonconforming cousin might show up wearing a dress instead of pants as usual. The things you’ve grown up believing have already been challenged by society.  If you’re like Joseph, you’re going to be willing to reconsider what “normal” looks like, based on new truths that you’ve learned.  Remember, deconstruction doesn’t mean tearing your faith down to leave it a shambles.  It means demolishing beliefs that no longer serve you, so you can rebuild something stronger on a solid foundation.  If Joseph could do it, you can too.

 

Learning About Inclusion

The shepherds’ shakeup started with the angels announcing the messiah’s birth.  It ended with the shepherds learning that there are no fringe groups, no outsiders, no outcasts—only people who are welcomed by God.  Deconstruction, indeed!  Maybe this Christmas, you’ve had to give up old ideas of who’s in and who’s out and understand that God is more inclusive than you ever believed.

 

Willingness to Change Course

The magi managed to transform their faith as well.  At first, they went to Herod’s palace seeking the newborn king. But, given new information, they were willing to reconsider their preconceived notions of what and where the Christ Child would be.  If they insisted on searching only among the great, they’d still be looking today. And their gifts would never have been used by God to support the needs of poor refugees. It’s a good thing they decided to change their course and head for Bethlehem.

Perhaps God has shown you that you need to add a little more humility to your faith Deconstructing can be just as much about radically shifting your attitudes as changing your doctrine.  When we hold our faith with humility, we understand that others might have insights that we don’t possess.  We keep our eyes and ears open to follow the light that’s given to us.  And we change course when we realize we were wrong.

 

An Opportunity to Adapt

Christmas is a time to celebrate ancient traditions, but let’s not forget that it’s also an opportunity to learn something new, and to adapt your old beliefs to match new understandings.  If this Christmas season has you questioning doctrine you always believed to be true, you’re in good company.  Mary, Joseph, the shepherds. and the magi all had to gain new information, demolish old assumptions, and rebuild their faith based on a new truth.

Don’t let your questions and doubts convince you that something’s wrong with you—they are actually a sign that something is right.  Be like Mary, who “pondered these things in her heart.”  Use your mind, and sort through your conflicting beliefs.  This holiday season, let’s embrace the good heritage, doctrines, and attitudes we have inherited from the past. But let’s also follow the examples of saints who have practiced the humility it takes to reconsider and change.


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