Christian Myths & Stuff You Aren't Supposed to Talk About!
Reflections on Luke 1:26-56
Ancient Myths Compared to Christianity
I have a friend who is quite hostile towards Christianity. She delights in referring to Bible stories as “Christian myths” because this suggests that believing in these stories is equivalent to believing the story of Hercules fighting Medusa, (the lady with snake hair who caused people to turn to stone just by looking at her).
For my friend, nothing says “myth” and “couldn’t possibly be real” like Luke 1:26-38, the story of the Virgin Birth. And admittedly, it probably does make most of us uncomfortable. I generally don’t have a problem with God being able to do this. I mean if you believe in a God that could create the entire universe, this story seems like a pretty small deal for him…
It’s just that, at face value, if we are honest the story of God having a child through Mary does seem at the very least, little like the myths of other religions. For example, the god Zeus was a major creeper hitting on all the goddesses and pretty young mortals. He had children all over the place. So, the idea of God having a human child wasn’t new and revolutionary to ancient people…
Like me, they probably didn’t struggle with believing in Jesus as the Son of God, they just had problems with what that meant. What is God really like? How does he relate to humanity? Does he care about me?
It’s crazy interesting (and uncomfortable for uptight religious people) to think about this in connection with Luke. He was writing to an actual ancient Roman about why he should believe in Jesus. And right off the bat, chapter one, he talks about the virgin birth.
So, what is different about this story?
God doesn’t need us. He is more powerful than we can understand.
God’s love for humanity is not based on fickle human emotions. He loves us all and grants favor to those of us who choose to follow him.
As American Christians, we often get used to the idea of having “right standing” with God. Our songs are full of bravado as we claim all the great things we are going to do for him.
Mary was different. When the angel greeted her, he said “greetings, favored one. The Lord is with you.” And Mary was taken aback. She was “perplexed, troubled, confused”. She had undoubtedly sought to follow all that she knew of God in her Jewish upbringing, but she obviously did not take his favor for granted. She knew it was a HUGE, really big, super terrific, terrifying, amazing, deal. God created this entire universe, he rules over it and for some reason, beyond our understanding, he includes PEOPLE in his plans.
God doesn’t selfishly use people.
Luke included the detail that the conception of Jesus wasn’t a sex act and it wasn’t based on some weird lusty creepy thing. (I know we aren’t supposed to say that…) This wasn’t at all like Zeus or any other ancient god just messing around with humanity for his pleasure. This was God including Mary in his redemptive plan for humanity.
God’s presence in your life doesn’t free you from life.
All religions like to seek some kind of control over their concept of God. Truthfully, most of us do the same thing. We want a ritual or formula to make life go like we want. And as long as we are doing that, truthfully, our religion is just like any other.
But, Christianity isn't about freedom from life's struggles. As with Mary, God wants us to know him and he wants to include us in his work in this world.
Mary still faced shunning and judgment from other people. She had to flee to Egypt because people were trying to kill Jesus. She was poor. She saw her son get crucified. Most people assume Joseph died before the crucifixion since he wasn’t there. She had many struggles and heartaches.
Luke wrote his book many years after these events. He had to search to find what Mary’s response was. She wasn’t blogging about them as they happened. Her recorded response to the events did not change after all the sorrow and suffering in her life. She still looked back and remembered the day she found out that she was going to give birth to the Messiah as:
My soul magnifies and exalts the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. “For He has looked with loving care on the humble state of His maidservant; For behold, from now on all generations will count me “For He who is mighty has done great things for me; And holy is His name.
“And His mercy is upon generation after generation “He has helped His servant Israel, In remembrance of His mercy, Just as He promised to our fathers, To Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
How Crazy Awesome this is for me (and you!)
Christianity does teach some crazy, hard to believe things. To me, the virgin birth isn’t even the hardest thing to believe. The hardest thing to believe is that I in all of my messed-up-ness can be in right standing with God!!! I think the most beautiful part of Christianity is that the God who created this entire universe, for some unfathomable reason, cares about us and chose to enter into our messy, rebellious, mean, hurtful, world to show us a better way.
This truth is so unbelievable, that the more I explore it, the more I realize how absolutely ridiculous it is. It makes no sense to believe that God who is so far above me would give a glance my way. I'm not even a stand out among fellow humans. I don't get VIP treatment anywhere.
But God spends time with me? He goes through life with me? Even as I'm in the middle of experiencing this truth, it absolutely blows my mind. I don't deserve it. I can't earn it. I struggle to believe it. I can't adequately explain it. But I'm super thankful that it's true! His forgiveness, power, purpose and strength are at times, all that I'm holding on to.
I hope that you wrestle with this too! I hope you understand how crazy hard to believe and how crazy awesome this truth is!
*(In fairness, I don’t know when this response was written. I just know that there wasn’t a recorder sitting by Mary as she experienced these things. Maybe she journaled it. Maybe she said this over and over. What I do know is that she felt it strongly enough for it to be recorded 40+ years later… which is pretty awesome!!!!)