|My brother, Kit, and myself, age four or five.|
|Note: This blog post assumes that Albert Schweitzer's book, The Quest of the Historical Jesus, is incorrect and that such a person as Jesus (Joshua ben Joseph) can be certified as having existed in first century history.|
Sixty-two years ago, when I was five years old, my mother and my Sunday School taught me the words to Away in a Manger.
Denial and romanticism are such great faculties in the human arsenal of self-delusion that it has taken me these full six decades to comprehend the actual meaning of the first verse of this song:
The stars in the sky looked down where He lay,
The little Lord Jesus, asleep in the hay.
Even though I knew what a manger is, (a trough raised on stilts full of oats or hay out of which animals eat so they won’t have to bend their necks to the ground) I never examined what it meant to the baby in the crib. (Think French: "manger": "to eat.")
Imagine that the dish (the manger) NEVER gets wiped out and is visited by dozens of animals a day, donkeys, goats, pigs, cows.
That was the little Lord Jesus’s first encounter with the world : a beddy-bye lacquered with the veneer of saliva and snot from barnyard animals, in a kind of excretionary patina.
At the least, the hay is a source for allergy and skin irritation to the sensitive skin and nostrils of the Christ child. At the most, it is a superhighway for lice and vermin to infest the infant in his helpless confinement. (Think veterinarian: a dog with "mange".)
How could a barnyard baby become King of a whole people?
BTW, this is the same aristocratic, snobbish question which is used to discredit Shakespeare's authorship: How could a simple lad, son of a glove maker,in Stratford-on-Avon in the 1500's write such worldly plays about nobles? It must have been the Earl of Oxford, or Queen Elizabeth herself who wrote them and used the name of Shakespeare, the mere actor, as a pseudonym. This line of 'reasoning' smacks of a knee-jerk hostility to egalitarianism, an egalitarianism which is quintessentially present in the notion of a barnyard divinity 1500 years prior to Shakespeare.
It means EITHER that Joseph disobeyed the no-sex prohibition of the first- year-long betrothal, or that he has been cuckolded.
Joseph has been cuckolded.
And its not just any old cuckolding which has occurred: Joseph has been cuckolded by Divinity Itself: The Lord God of Abraham.
This first Christmas is turning out to be not only unsanitary, but truly a first rate scandal.
King Herod was sufficiently threatened by the reality of a possible barnyard heir, that he ordered the slaughter of all male children born in the last two years since the manger babe was to be born of a virgin and ipso facto was a "first-born"-----a sweet blood-filled backdrop to the manger-baby's arrival (and a potent precursor to primogeniture, which ruled the world for the next 1900 years roar until it dies with a whimper ten years ago when one of the world's few remaining monarchs, Queen Elizabeth II, abolished it in a gesture to the late Princess Diana).
His father, Joseph, well might deserve the title “saint”, for he had to overcome doubts he surely must have entertained about having been made a cuckold, especially after hearing what must have sounded liked the biggest cock-and-bull-story in history from his wife: An angel told me God made me pregnant.
even though that Divine Father had the power in an instant to free him---and chooses instead to look the other way.
This, of course, is a fate which all human beings come to accept: Death is choreographed as the end of life by the same Creator who choreographed birth as its beginning.
Why all this reversal, irony, and doubt of a barnyard babe who is actually a divine king, humiliated in birth, life and death? Of royalty in rags? Saintliness disguised as sin?
That's the whole point of the manger-religion, isn't it?
To triumph over death.
Paul D. M. Keane
Verse 3: Attributed to John Thomas McFarland, 1887 (1851-1913)
Attribution by James R. Murray to Martin Luther is incorrect.
Scripture tells us that Jesus was the first-born child of Mary. This had to be true for her to be a "virgin" in the first place. Scripture also states that she had 5 more children: half-brothers/sisters to Jesus for their father was different.
The story of Mary/Joseph / Jesus is a deep theological story that offers us strong connection to the Son of God / Son of Man doctrine. You could spend an entire semester studying the implications of this one thing.
The conversation is clearly not a literal event, but a combination of theological discussion heavily edited and made into a literary poem of sorts, but buried deep within the gist of the conversation is the odd phrase:
�We were not born of Fornication: [at least] we KNOW who OUR father is...�
(lit. "WE (emphatic in the Greek: HUMEIS) are not bastards: we only have one father") !!!!!!
That�s hitting a little below the belt, even for Pharisees and Sadduccees.