For this morning’s reflection, I reread Matthew’s infancy narrative, beginning, “Now the birth of the Messiah took place in this way.” Having awaken in a whimsical frame of mind, I thought, “I already know, biblically and biologically, how it happened!
But I don’t think the story is concerned with birth mechanics or logistics, despite Matthew’s details about Mary and Joseph, their betrothal, cosmic intervention and spiritual impregnation, Joseph’s determination to divorce Mary, prompting an angelic declaration: “Not so fast, Joseph!”
The point, I think, is about what the birth means; what sense it makes or might make. For if Jesus’ birth doesn’t connect to this life, my human life, then truly I can say I don’t know what happened, and, therefore, should ask: What does it matter?
Matthew sums up the meaning in six words spoken to Joseph in a dream: “You are to name him Jesus.” From the Hebrew Yēšûa or Joshua, meaning declaratively, Yahweh (God) helps, or prayerfully, O God, help!
For Matthew, Jesus’ birth meant that God’s help had come, entering time and space. That healing (from the Latin, salvus, the root of salvation) had taken flesh in human history.
This, I believe, is the same meaning of every birth. Every baby born is a sign of help, of hope for healing of our human race. Every baby born is an incarnation of a new generation; one that might learn – from the hard won wisdom and heartbreaking foolishness of current and past generations – how to be more freely loving, more faithfully just, indeed, more fully human.
If every birth matters, then so, too, all lives – black, white, yellow, red, brown, old and young, poor and rich, female and male, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim, believers and non-believers, partisan and non-partisan, lesbian and gay, transgender and bisexual, oppressed and free, protesters and police, native born and immigrants, preachers and presidents, yours and mine – matter.