Have you lined out your sermon for Christmas Eve? Do you have your Sunday School lessons planned through Advent? Do you shudder when you hear the phrases Immaculate Conception, or the Virgin Birth? Do you hear the biblical story of angels visiting Joseph and think "wow, God is the father of Mary's child?..... I can see the Holy Spirit making it happen, no problem!" Relax
As pastor I have had two conversations that sound radically different but in reality, they are very similar. One parishioner said "I cannot believe in the virgin birth. That is not the way babies are made. My early church background insisted that I leave my brain at the door, swallow this natural law defying miracle, and just believe. I cannot do that!" Another parishioner said "Mary was a virgin when Jesus was born. When we call Jesus the son of God, I believe that in the most literal manner. It is important, it is essential!"
To both of them I ask the question, "Is belief (or not believing) in the virgin birth a core component to your Christian faith?" Both answered with an unequivocal "Yes!" I then asked "Does you belief in (or refusal to believe in) the virgin birth make a difference to your discipleship of Jesus today, right now?" They both answered "absolutely!" Then remembering the words of John Wesley I said "If your heart is as my heart then give me your hand." I told both of them "We are on the same page."
Please don't get hung up on the virgin birth this Christmas. Please let go of your need to have a tidy, empirically verifiable birth story. This season, as your wander through the nativity, rather than wondering whether Mary was a virgin or not, refrain from sharing what you think happened at Jesus' birth, share what you feel about this magical story. God's hope is that you will choose the path that is most helpful in understanding that God will do whatever is necessary to breathe hope in your life today, right now!