I love the Christmas story. I know, that is really trite, everyone is suppose to say that. Nevertheless for me the story of God coming to earth to redeem fallen and rebellious man is a great story. The Muslims here tell the story a little differently though. Many of you probably know that Muslims are very offended by the idea that Jesus is God's Son. A couple of years ago I had long discussion about it with a good friend of mine who is a Muslim. In frustration he gave me a movie that was produced in a Muslim country for Muslims about the birth of Jesus. He felt that it would clear up all my misunderstandings- in a sense it did.
The movie opens with Mary in the temple in Jerusalem. She is a highly respected member of Jewish society. She is well known for her work with the poor, for her spicial purity and grace, and for the miracles and healings that she could do. She stays with her uncle, Zachariah who is one of the priest. There is no mention of Joseph. Mary is discovered to be with child. The rulers and the priest feel betrayed and they accuse Mary of immorality. She knows she is pregnant by God's Spirit but no one believes her except for Zachariah- and he only half believes her. She is yelled at and disgraced and finally when Zach can no longer defend her she flees into the wilderness where there is an abundance of loud dramatic music and moving scenes of sand and rock. She then goes up to a strange pillar of rock leans against it and gives birth to a chorus of more loud dramatic music. She goes back to Jerusalem and takes her baby to the steps of the temple where she is greeted by a crowd of bitter old angry men dressed up as priest. They mock her and scold her. They asks her the baby's name and she replies that they should ask him themselves. They mock her some more and one of them says, 'So, the baby can talk can it? I will just ask him myself shall I? Hey kid, what's your name?' To everone's great shock the baby replies in a deep voice that he is Jesus and he is a great prophet sent from God. All the old men fall down defeated and ashamed.
What I like about this movie is that they describe Jesus' parenthood nearly exactly like we do. One of the big arguments from Muslims is that Jesus could not be God's son but they do in fact acknowledge that Mary was a virgin and that God's Spirit made her to be pregnant. Very interesting. But there is much that I hate about this movie. In addition to the ridiculously dramatic music there is the character and nature of Mary herself. In the Muslim view Mary is beloved by God because of her exceptional nature. She is better than everyone else and that is why God chose her. But I like the truth much better! The truth is that Mary was the least of the least. She was an uneducated, poor, unremarkable village girl from the smallest town in the smallest most oppressed country in the world. She was completely powerless so what better person could God use to change the entire world? I said Mary was unremarkable but that of course, is not quite true. She was nothing in the world's eyes but what she was could move heaven and earth. She was one of the only people confronted by God who didn't argue with him. You will bear a son.... Ok, do what you will. Moses didn't give that answer. Gideon didn't give that answer. Most people when confronted by God look at themselves and say, 'But Lord, I can't. I am not able.' No such foolishness from Mary. She told the angel that GOD COULD DO whatever he wanted- and she is so right.
So, what about you and me? God is here today and He is asking us if we will let Him move in our lives. What is your answer to Him. I pray that my answer will always be like Mary's, the unremarkable village girl whom the whole world will always call blessed. Have a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year. I thank each one of you for praying for us, giving money to Lottie Moon and the Cooperative Program, and for being obedient to God in all the ways He is forwarding His Kingdom.