Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Holy family


Despite all the textual and historical evidence that Jesus was born in the heart of a first-century Judaean family home, and not a stable at the back of an inn (which is a western cultural misunderstanding) a lot of people seem to want to argue that Mary and Joseph would be forced to seek marginal lodging because both sides of the family would ostracise an unmarried couple expecting a child.

There are cultures where shame trumps familial ties, and cultures where familial ties trump potential shame. There are cultures where both possibilities entwine. The argument that Mary and Joseph would be ostracised makes choices that may not be right.

It also assumes that God was able to prepare both Mary and Joseph, but did not prepare—by whatever means, including the relationship between Mary and her family and Joseph and his family—their wider families. This in turn is shaped by a very western, individualistic understanding of our actions and agency.

Along the same lines, it also assumes that Mary was godly, and Joseph a righteous man, but that in neither case did the families they were raised in have any significant part in the formation of their lives and character.

It is, in short, a conclusion that is shaped by our cultural values and not theirs.

This is a story in which, again and again, as we anticipate first the birth of John and then the birth of Jesus, these children are welcomed into the heart of an expectant, if bewildered, family.


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