God is a hard act to follow

I’m not sure if I should be offended by this billboard or not. It’s a poster that was put up in New Zealand, by a church, that is looking to challenge how people think of the virgin Mary, the annunciation and the birth of Jesus Christ.

On a certain level, I think it’s a funny poster because I agree that God would be a hard act to follow. On the other hand, I think it’s offensive because I feel like it tries to humanize or even trivialize something that we believers take on faith.

Let me try to explain a little better

Since it’s Christmas time right now, there’s been a lot of Christmas programming on the TV the last few days. Yesterday, I watched the movie “The Nativity” which purports to tell the story of the annunciation and tells the story of Joseph and Mary before the baby Jesus was born.

Here’s a clip from the movie

The movie, in my opinion, shows us how things may have happened and how life could’ve been like for Mary, Joseph and the other people of their time.

The movie tells us about the 3 wise men and their journey of faith from Persia to Bethlehem, the prophesy of the birth of the Messiah, how king Herod tried to stamp out what he mistakenly saw as a real world rebellion and tells us about Zecharias’ song.

I’m not a biblical scholar by any means, but let me say that the movie sticks pretty close to the story line as it appears in the Bible.

Let me get to the point

From the Bible and as highlighted in the movie, we know that Joseph was reassured by an angel that Mary had been faithful to him and that the baby she was carrying was created by immaculate conception. Mary was a virgin when she got pregnant with the baby Jesus Luke 1 34.

Even though we don’t hear much from or about Joseph after the birth of Jesus, we know from the Bible, that Jesus Christ had half brothers. We can also surmise these half siblings came from the continued marriage between Joseph and Mary.

I can see that when Joseph and Mary went to conceive their first child, by human means, that Mary may have had a moment like the one depicted in the picture above.

What I don’t like, is that that New Zealand church seems to be trying to make immaculate conception equivalent to human conception. It seems to me like that church is trying to call immaculate conception into question and then trying to tie it to Christmas.

Maybe I’m being too sensitive or going down the wrong track with this.

Apparently, the church wanted to get people to talk about and think about what Christmas is about. I agree that people need to focus more on what Christmas is really about and a little less on what’s on sale at Best Buy, but I don’t believe this poster is the right way to accomplish that.

No one on this planet knows how immaculate conception works. I know how human conception works, and I know that Christmas is not about the immaculate conception.

Christmas is about the birth of Jesus, not his conception. I know that you can’t have a birth without conception, but no one celebrates the day they were conceived

What do you think?

2 thoughts on “God is a hard act to follow

  • December 21, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    Thanks for asking me to comment.

    When I first saw the billboard, I thought that was Jesus in bed with His mother! Then I figured out that it was Joseph.

    Here are just a couple of clarifying points.
    1) There is a distinct difference between the “Immaculate Conception” and the “Virgin Birth.” But for many these terms are synonymous. The “Virgin Birth” refers to the conception of our Lord Jesus Christ “who was conceived of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary” (Nicene Creed). The “Immaculate Conception” refers to the Roman Catholic dogma that the Virgin Mary was conceived without the stain of original sin by a special gift of grace from God. Her parents were Joachim & Anna. The logic being, “How could the Holy Son of God (Jesus) be conceived in a sinful vessel (Mary). The Eastern Orthodox Church doesn’t ‘need’ a dogma of an Immaculate Conception because the Orthodox Church has a different understanding of ‘original sin.’

    2) Most, if not all, of the Nativity movies I’ve seen picture a young Mary & Joseph. However the Orthodox Church maintains that Joseph was a much older man who was a widower. This can be seen from many of the ancient icons of the Church.

    3) The spiritual leaders of the Ancient Church, under the leading of the Holy Spirit, proclaimed the mother of our Lord as ‘Ever-Virgin’ and Theotokos – the bearer of God. For that which was born of her is fully God.

    Now think about this. Do you remember the Ark of the Covenant? Yes. The ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark,’ Ark. (Not Noah’s.) Do you remember when David was moving the Ark on a cart to Jerusalem? One of his men, Uzzah, reached out to touch the Ark and stabilize it, because the oxen had stumbled. He was struck dead. If the Ark of the Covenant, which carried the Law of Moses – the stone tablets, was respected and reverenced by the Jews. Doesn’t it go to reason that Joseph, after receiving the Word from the Angel, knowing that she was going to bear the Son of God, show at least as much respect? Just something to consider.

    The Mystery of Faith is not just isolated to the birth of Christ – which many have reduced to a mere human event. Our faith is in the Incarnation (God becoming flesh). In fact Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth prophesied, John the Baptist leaped in her womb, being filled with the Holy Spirit, calling Mary, “the Mother of my Lord!” – even before Jesus was born.

    Just something to consider. 🙂

    Merry Christmas!

    Fr. Wade Fahnestock+
    Lakeland, FL


  • December 21, 2009 at 2:00 pm

    Hi Fr. Wade,

    Thanks for the clarification on the “Virgin Birth” and “Immaculate Conception” I always used them interchangeably. Indeed, The Mystery of Faith goes way beyond just the birth of Christ and for the record, I loved that movie “Raiders of the Lost Ark”

    Merry Christmas to you too!


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