27 March 2009

Lenten Journal: Telling the Truth

Wednesday night was the celebration of the Anunciation of our Lord. Nine months prior to our celebration of Jesus' birth, we remember the night the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and announced (anuncio in Latin) she was to bear the Son of God. This is prior to her marriage with Joseph - they were betrothed, not married, so this child would be a scandal to those who can count to nine and remember wedding dates. All of which makes the book I read last night most curious.

A friend gave us a sack full of children's books, and after I brought them home our Ainsley, of course, wanted to read through the lot. In that group of books was a children's version of the Nativity. I thought it looked sort of cute, until I opened it up and read the first page:
Joseph and his wife Mary lived in Nazareth. Joseph was a carpenter. They had a house, and a donkey, but they had no children of their own, even though they loved each other very much.
It's not an exact quotation, but it gets the important stuff right. I'll give you a second to go back and read it again in case you missed the problem the first time.

There's a basic responsibility being shirked here, for reasons that I don't even pretend to understand. Somehow this little nugget of untruth got past the editors, printers and whoever else was in charge of the production of this book for the company who made it. Are we to believe that no one noticed what is, in the best scenario possible, a monumental oversight?

It's both tragic and funny at the same time. Virgin birth or not, even the most dedicated "historical Jesus" scholars agree that Mary and Joseph were not married at the time Mary became pregnant. It's not a matter of propriety: it's a matter of overwhelming historic record, regardless of whether God was involved in the conception or not.

We owe our children the truth. No, perhaps not the whole truth: somehow I think explaining the vagaries of ancient Palestinian marriage covenants might not be the best course of action with our two year-old. It's not easy telling telling the truth - every child old enough to talk knows that. But it's our job to teach them to tell the truth, even when the truth is inconvenient, unflattering or downright painful. Let's be honest: we cutesy-up stories because they make us uncomfortable, not our kids. And part of me wonders if God didn't choose such a scandalous natal situation on purpose, to deliberately provoke our discomfort and expose it for the hypocrisy that it is. God, at least, has always told the truth - at the very least, we who claim to be God's people ought to be about the business of doing the same.

Grace & peace,

The painting is "The Anunciation" by Henry Tanner. I think it captures the hard reality of what was about to happen to Mary, as well as her youth and innocence. Stunning, isn't it?

1 comment:

  1. Wow. That makes me more than a bit angry. As a CE director I fully believe that we owe our children the truth whenever possible. I may gloss over some parts but I will never blatantly alter a story to make it more kid friendly...