THE PHANTOM MEANCE AND THE VIRGIN BIRTH
by David Sisler
The day of the premier finally arrived. There had been a very long wait, with almost unbearable anticipation. There had been so much advanced notice, so many teasers. No one could really have anticipated how incredible the special effects would be. A multitude went to see it that first night, but an even greater number stayed home, not wanting to miss sleep over one little production.
He was an unusual little boy. His mother made incredible claims about his birth. There was something about him that caused people to predict an extraordinary future for him. Ambassadors who traveled a great distance were amazed by him. The force of his wisdom and insight challenged even the most learned teachers.
The picture is filled with drama: an unwed mother, homeless, living in a city where slaves were still held, forced to look for shelter, and all the while threatened by a phantom menace. Forces from the dark side were seeking ever greater control. It was a long time ago, and far, far away.
What initially attracted his mother's attention we are not told. Maybe there was an unearthly sound, the air crackling with super-charged energy. Maybe there was a flash of blinding light. Maybe the robed stranger just materialized where only seconds before there had been nothing. Maybe he just walked in through the open door.
"Good morning, beautiful one," he said. "The Lord is with you."
Mary screamed, her hands reflexively covering her mouth in a vain attempt to stifle the sound. The clay bowl she had been holding crashed to the floor and broke into a dozen pieces. The little Jewish girl staggered backwards until the solid wall behind her stopped her retreat and gave strength to her wobbly legs.
Gabriel realized the fear his greeting generated and he put his hands up in a universal gesture of reassurance. "It's all right, Mary. It's all right," he said. "Don't be afraid. God has a surprise for you. You are going to give birth to a son and call his name Jesus."
Mary was no longer afraid. The emotion which filled her heart now was indignation. "Wait just a minute! I am a virgin! I have never slept with a man!"
If you had been filming this universe-changing vignette, the close-up of Gabriel's face would have been Academy award winning stuff. Like dawn exploding into a darkened world, his face became a smile which stretched his ears. It was a smile just like one he had seen on the face of a ninety year old woman centuries earlier, a woman who had been told that she, too, was going to give birth to a miraculous baby. She laughed so hard there was nothing else to do but name the boy, Isaac, laughter.
Gabriel said, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, the power of the Highest will overshadow you. The child you will bear will be called the Son of God."
"Let it be with me just as you say," Mary replied, her voice and her heart now soft, and she became the first person to receive Jesus on God's terms, in spite of the cost.
Mary had a cousin named Elizabeth who had been unable to have children. In a miracle of God, six months before Gabriel terrorized Mary with good news, Elizabeth became pregnant. Elizabeth and Zechariah rejoiced at their good fortune and everyone rejoiced with them. Mary had to hide her pregnancy and Joseph had to be reassured by an angel that Mary had not been unfaithful to him.
When the time came for Elizabeth's son to be born there was great celebration. When the time came for Mary's son to be born, Joseph took her out of town, and his step son was born in barn, far way from the small-minded gossips who did not believe Mary's explanation for her pregnancy.
Mary gave birth to her son in Asia, where half of the babies born into the world today are delivered. Even then it was a section of the world that had suffered civil wars, invasions and ethnic cleansings. And her son would become a refugee in Africa, like so many refugees today. It was a world not hospitable to her son. That world eventually condemned her son as a criminal and ordered his execution. But he would not, could not stay dead, and he will not, cannot stay away much longer.
"Behold," Matthew recorded, "a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us."
Someone please give a message to George Lucas — Emmanuel's name is Jesus. It is not Annakin.
Published in the Augusta Chronicle 6/5/99
Copyright 1999 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.
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