Christmas in Bethlehem  

Alec Motyer (imagenews, November 2013)

Joseph was far from looking forward to that first Christmas Day.

You see, he was engaged to this girl called Mary, and their Wedding Day was in sight when it became clear that Mary was pregnant - and suddenly his whole life fell apart.   Joseph was in a quandary. First, he knew the Baby was not his; and, secondly, he couldn't bring himself to believe (could anyone?) Mary's explanation that she was pregnant through the Holy Spirit, and that her baby was therefore the Son of God.   So Joseph's best idea was a quiet, not publicized, end of the engagement.

Enter, the Angel of the Lord.

The Angel said, “Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit .”

At least, that's what our Bible translations say the Angel said, but here's an odd thing - the Greek word translated 'conceived' is never given that translation anywhere else in the New Testament. It means 'to beget' (the male part in the relationship) or, in our verse, Matthew 1:20, 'to be born'.

The translation 'conceived' is very understandable, because that is what happened. It is what we would naturally say - and for many today (though not for the Bible) 'conceived' leaves open the 'status' of the fetus - is a fetus a person or a thing? But the Greek word, properly understood settles the issue.  'To be conceived' is 'to be born', and, without doubt, 'birth' means the start of personal life - whether we are thinking nine months on or whether we are thinking of the very moment of conception'.

Isn't it interesting how one word, properly understood, can make such a difference? The Bible is like that: it specializes in the right word in the right place - and it means us to take its words seriously.