Friday, 31 December 2010

Simple truth

'... the young woman is with child and will give birth to a son whom she will call Immanuel.' (Isaiah 7:14)

The Nativity story is a tale of beautiful simplicity.

Its beauty comes from the simplicity of the people involved, their family life, their homes, and of course the simplicity of Christ's place of birth. The simplicity of the story is in God's presence at the moment of conception, and in the beautiful secret concealed within Mary's womb. Something – on the face of it – completely beyond our comprehension, but simultaneously an event of the utmost simplicity. It appears to be, and is accepted as being beyond our understanding because in making our appreciation of the usual, normal and therefore obvious cause of a pregnancy a fixed and unalterable reality beyond which we are incapable of seeing, our minds have no place to go once they have wandered through the variations of that one and only cause.

Today's possible variations are a long way from the natural limits of two thousand years ago. In vitro fertilization has made the possibility of pregnancy a reality for couples otherwise unable to have children of their own; but sperm and ovum donation, and surrogate mothers, have taken assistance in this area into realms beyond the limits of the nurturing environment into which every newborn child has a right to be born. There always have been children born to single and unsupported mothers, and that will not change, but to be one half of a natural process which results in pregnancy is one thing; what is possible, allowed, and in many quarters unchallenged today, is quite another. These scientific abilities have made the possibility of a virgin birth seem unsurprising, and have opened doors for the gradually increasing acceptance of single individuals and "couples" of the same gender having a child seemingly conjured for them without any physical, emotional or spiritual intimacy being involved in the process. The media coverage given over the Christmas period to a high profile homosexual couple should have thrust the contrast of such situations with the pregnancy of Mary and the birth of her son into every thinking Christian person's mind.

CBS News reported Dr. Masood Khatamee, a fertility specialist and clinical professor at New York University, as saying, "The technology of reproductive medicine has approached the state where anything is possible for those that can afford it."

When we look back to Mary's pregnancy, so long before any of these possibilities, we have only two ways to make sense of the story. We either believe that Mary became pregnant through natural means, or we believe in 'The Virgin Birth'. There is nowhere else to go. For many, of course, disbelief is never focused on: it merely lies asleep in the undisturbed corners of our routines and our comfort zones; and it would never consciously become an acknowledgement of belief in a natural explanation: certainly not a declared belief.

Our knowledge holds us in locked jaws; and so long as we remain in its unchallenged grip we relinquish the wonder, the awareness, the responsibility and the power that were ours as men and women created to control, tame and care for our world and all that is in it.

But that same knowledge can be used to see things differently. Breaking through our knowledge-reinforced preconceptions is one of the things we all find most difficult to do, and while my own easy acceptance of the virgin birth might seem to disqualify me from understanding that difficulty, I am well aware that I am unable to believe something else which may present no problem for those around me.

A few basic facts are all I need to reinforce my own preconception: my own naturally occurring and readily accepted grasp of the situation immediately before that previously unimaginable, phenomenal moment of conception.

The human body consists of trillions of cells, and within the adult male body well over 100 million sperm cells are produced every day; trillions during a lifetime. Couple that with the fact that a sperm cell is the smallest of all the cells in the human body (and much of its volume is taken up by its means of propulsion rather than what is needed to fertilize the ovum), and what do we have if not an impressive way of demonstrating just how insignificant a thing is a single sperm cell. Not in its potential value or importance at conception (just one of those millions fertilizes the egg), but when regarded in the light of all the countless miracles that have gone to make up the collective miracle that is the human body within which that one microscopic cell is produced, as well as the miracle that creates that particular cell within it. Our problem with miracles is that we look for the unexpected, the exceptional, the striking, the phenomenal. We miss the miracles of our lives, our very existence, and of the whole of creation. If we believe in a God as Creator and sustainer of all things, how can we fail to believe that He could provide the supernatural equivalent of the almost non-existent contents of a sperm cell?

Everything else was there, ready, waiting; prepared from the moment when God first conceived the idea, long before His word of it was revealed to Israel through His prophets. When the time was right, Christ was conceived by the merest flicker of a thought. The quietest and apparently most insignificant of beginnings for the quietest and apparently most insignificant of births.

Scientific knowledge cannot distance me from my faith: it has always confirmed it. Without any such knowledge I would surely doubt, but the little I have is more than enough to set me firmly where I stand.

If God has not done this thing, then Christianity is nothing more than a foolish deception.

If God is incapable of such a thing, then He does not exist.

But He spoke; the Word was made flesh; Christ was born. The undoubted and beautiful simplicity of Truth: - God is with us.

About Me

Who I am should be, and should remain, of little consequence to you. Who you are is what matters; who you are meant to be is what should matter most to you. In coming closer to my own true self, I have gradually been filled with the near inexpressible: I have simply become "brim full", and my words to you are drawn from those uttered within myself, as part of an undeniable overflowing that brings a smile to my every dusk, and to my every new dawn.
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