Your Friday Firestorm #26

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them. And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

(Luke 2:1-22)

Discuss.

Merry Christmas to everyone from BCC.

Comments

  1. I prefer the Markan account.

  2. I was wondering about that, Ronan. heh. You Q-texter, you.

  3. I hope Mel Gibson will film the nativity one day. He’ll play some Bethlehem friend of Mary and Joseph who helps them escape, before Herod’s soldiers, with British accents, simultaneously crucify him, flay him alive, and pull out his heart.

  4. What, you didn’t like the recent one starring the lead from Whale Rider?

  5. It’s cute (and actually features people who look reasonably Judean) but sadly bloodless. Go to bed, Steve!

  6. That video reminds me of this, from SNL. I don’t remember how to do links, so you’ll have to copy and paste. But it’s worth it. A real gem.

  7. Automatic links! Rockin’!

  8. The Lakota tribe did what?

    And may Woden on his 8 legged horse come bring peace to you all, this fine Yule season.

  9. Steve Evans says:

    And to you, Matt. Stay tuned for a discussion of Yule on a different post.

  10. I think we can all agree that we can keep this thread from becoming a real firestorm as long as we don’t tell TT about it. ;)

  11. Kevin Barney says:

    After my mission I worked for a time at an auto meter manufacturing facility. Christmas was approaching, and this one woman asked me (knowing I was a recently returned missionary) what Gloria in excelsis Deo meant. I was embarrassed to realize I didn’t know. I later found out that it means “Glory to God in the highest” and derives from this text.

    Because of that experience, when I started studying Latin at BYU and bought a Vulgate in SLC one of the first passages I looked up was that very verse. I was surprised to find that the Vulgate uses altissimis instead of excelsis; I later learned that excelsis is a synonym deriving from the Roman liturgy and not directly from Jerome’s Vulgate.

    These Latin terms translate the Greek hupsistois, from hupsistos, a superlative form meaning “highest.” Highest what? When used of rank it can refer to God (as the Most High, equivalent to the Hebrew ‘elyon), but here the term is contrasted with “on earth” and is therefore used of place, and in that context the word means the highest regions; IE the highest heaven. (So this canticle has a bit more resonance for Mormons, who actually believe in degrees of heavens, which was also a common belief around the intertestamental period.)

  12. Behold, the Barney!

  13. Nick Literski says:

    The Martian account, Ronan? I know Jesus is supposed to be messiah of several worlds, but now there’s a Martian account? What? That’s not what you said?

    Nevermind.

  14. Thanks for the link. Charlie Brown’s Christmas is a favorite childhood memory — back in the simpler (and more deprived?) times before VCRs and multiple cable channels, when we would look for it on the schedule with excitement and try to be home to watch it every year. Merry Christmas!

  15. When I was on my mission my MP wanted us to tract on Christmas Eve because it was a good chance to catch families together. Insubordinate that I was (am), I found reasons not to do it. One of them was to visit a neighborhood nursing home. It was dark and most of the grandmas and grandpas were already home with their families. The woman at the desk greeted us with a bright smile and pointed out a small, ancient woman sitting in a wheelchair, looking out the window. She clutched a small fruit basket on her lap. We were told her family wasn’t able to come get her. My companion and I went to talk to her and she brightened for the company. She smiled– seemingly unable to speak– and gestured for us to sit. I asked her if she wanted me to read the story of Jesus to her and, nodding, she mouthed the words, “Oh, yes.” So I read her that passage from Luke. When I was done, I looked up and, oh, I’ll never forget the look of gratitude, tears running down her face. She mouthed “Thank you” and offered me an apple from her little basket.

    Now, I don’t know if I’m going to be held accountable for missing the Lord’s elect that night. Somehow I don’t think so. If I do get a few stripes, though, I’ll gladly take them. Like Linus, that is what Christmas means to me.

  16. Steve, this firestorm has done nothing but make me happy for the season. Thank you and all the BCC permabloggers for a very enlightening year.

    David T, I think you’ll be okay, as your Christmas Eve missionary activity certainly puts you in this category from Matt 25:34-40.

    Merry Christmas to all.

  17. David T,

    That was a beautiful story. I think you made the right choice. If I was a non-member, I definitely would not want the missionaries knocking on my door when I’m trying to have Christmas Eve with my family.

  18. Steve Evans says:

    Kevinf, this is the BCC version of the Yule Log.

  19. Steve, very hearth-warming!

  20. That clip is awesome! Jesus doing the Charlie Brown dance- I love it.

    Yes, behold the Barney, indeed.

    Merry Christmas, Everyone!

  21. Merry Christmas with great JOY!

    I’ve just found your blog and will be adding it to my links.

    Thanks and God Bless!

  22. Kevin Barney says:

    Great story, David T.! Very touching. I’m with MattG., no one wants missionaries knocking on their door on Christmas Eve; this was an inspired alternative.

  23. So, just seasonal sentimentality this week? No comments on the metaphorical meaning of virgin birth and the problematic sexual psychology of either Mary believing an angel had announced such an absurdity to her or naive readers taking the account literally? Nothing stronger than Ronan’s preference for Mark over Luke? The post is mistitled.

  24. Steve Evans says:

    Alas, Johnny M., the Christmas spirit is stronger than even the greatest of firestorms. But here — enjoy some e-nog.

  25. no one wants missionaries knocking on their door on Christmas Eve

    Well, you could always just treat it as a caroling exercise; sing ‘em a verse or two of a Christmas Carol, wish ‘em a “Merry Christmas from the Mormons!” and leave it at that. Who could be offended by that?

  26. Well, since Brad expects it of me… :)

    What kind of message does this story offer about gender?

    Father=God=Spirit
    Mary=Human=Body

    Is the Christological story here one which inscribes gender hierarchies into our salvation by associating the parents of Christ with the hierarchies of spirit over flesh?

    Why not make Christ the product of a miraculous human insemination of Heavenly Mother?

  27. TT,
    Didn’t Orson Blogs teach that Mary was Heavenly Mother (see JD 14:667)?

  28. 26 – So you are saying their something wrong with the body? I seem to recall that the reason we came here was to get a body. Spirt and Body are meant to become one.

    Your last question, because the story is about the condescension of God, not the ascension of man.

  29. Jacob,
    I think that your first point is entirely correct, and that we should think more about this troubling of the classical western dichotomy between body and spirit that we find in Mormon theology.

    As to your second point about Heavenly Mother, however, you seem to have just reinscribed the old hierarchy by saying that the only way for God to condescend to humanity is for the Father to inseminate a human woman.

  30. Inseminate is the wrong word to use, I think. That sounds way too Ed Deckerish to me. Also, it makes more sense for him to be born on earth to an earthly mother than to be born in heaven to Heavenly Mother.

    And I think our church has done a better job with the dichotomy than others have, particularly with the emphasis that we place on keeping our bodies clean and pure. I don’t see the classical western dichotomy in mormon theology nearly as much as I’ve seen it in other religions.

  31. Jacob 30,
    You’re probably right that “inseminate” might connote an actual sexual relationship, which I didn’t mean. I only mean that the divine seed was somehow implanted in Mary. Is that fair?

    “it makes more sense for him to be born on earth to an earthly mother than to be born in heaven to Heavenly Mother.”

    To whom? Are we really going to argue about what makes more sense when gods and humans produce offspring? While most divine-human relationships were Male God on Female Human, there were others the other way around. Consider the Homeric Hymn to Aphrodite in which Aphrodite lies with Anchises to produce Aeneas.

    “I don’t see the classical western dichotomy in mormon theology nearly as much as I’ve seen it in other religions.”

    I agree completely. I think that question remains about whether or not this would have been the context in which the story was originally told. Unfortunately, I suspect that the traditional dichotomy was operative, and that the gender hierarchy was coded to the divine-human/soul-body hierarchies.

  32. I see what you’re saying. And you’re being quite fair. I just see something beautiful in him being raised by his natural mother on earth. I can’t explain it at this point, but I will ponder and let you know later tonight if I get something more specific.

  33. Kevin Barney and David T,

    Thank you.

  34. One more thing I’ve been thinking about with regard to this story. Does Mary have any agency here? Is she just told, “you’re the lucky winner! you’re pregnant God’s child. deal with it”? What does this story have to say about pregnancy and agency?

  35. Nothing.

    Merry Christmas!

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