Around Christmas time, a Romanian politician caused an uproar on social media when he said that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a surrogate mother. He said her fiance Joseph was middle-aged and the son of God was born into “an odd family.”
I am told this is a “sensitive” topic and the phrasing made people feel uncomfortable or even enraged. It stirred them up as there is a belief that the Christian faith should be predictable and comforting, not controversial.
The politician, Iulian Bulai of the Save Romania Union, compared Jesus’ birth in a dirty stable (there was no room in the inn) to an unmarried couple who hadn’t physically conceived him to the many thousands of vulnerable and trafficked children in Romania.
Christmas is a good time to remind people of children suffering; it’s a time when we think of people who are less well off than we are.
Yet, it is more daring and challenging to step outside what are considered traditional views on the Christmas story. But Romania is changing and that is challenging to many people.
On Christmas Day, I went to church in England, and the priest, a woman, emptied a bag of rubbish in front of the altar: scrunched up paper, old envelopes, empty cereal boxes, a broken pen. The message was this: Jesus was born into a mess.
She said that human lives are a mess, however much we try and put on a good face for the world. People are broken. The point of Christianity is to heal the brokenness. Jesus came for the prostitutes and the crooks, not the Rabbis and Pharisees, the Bible tells us.
Jesus of the gospels, Mathew, Mark, Luke and John called people to leave their homes, abandon their jobs, risk their lives, and even give up their families for him. It wasn’t an easy calling.
Historically, it is known that Jesus was a Jew from Nazareth who led a popular Jewish movement in Palestine at the beginning of the first century, and Rome crucified him for doing so.
Jesus of Nazareth was also revolutionary who confronted the Judean religious establishment. He was not a peaceful spiritual leader, marriage counselor, or diplomat.
The priest, whose husband is also a priest, said Jesus, who turned the “mess into Messiah” had a message that was real and relevant to the ordinary dirty business of life. It is there for everyone who needs it, the single mothers, the drug addicts, the trafficked children, the lonely and broken hearted.
Jesus wanted to show that God especially judges and hates are the things that humanity considers “normal” such as hypocrisy, self-righteousness, judgmentalism, exclusion of others.
I have no definitive answer on whether Mary was a surrogate mother, which is an issue of theological debate. There are differing opinions depending on what church you belong to. I’m not sure how important it is either.
But the appeal from Iulian Bulai to “honest politicians to be the shepherds and wise men of our time and give a helping hand to those in need: failed communities who need solidarity, generosity and good management of the local budget,” seems to be a perfect message for Christmas.