Israel is an unending treasure trove of antiquities from across the ages. Excavation begins or a new building foundation or roadway and, Bob's your Roman uncle, there's a bunch of coins or the foundation of another structure from a thousand years ago, or two.
Recently an archeological dig in the Jezreel Valley revealed the inscription from the frame of an entrance door to a Byzantine church from the 5th century. It is written in Greek and begins Christ, born of Mary. Apparently this formula, ‘Christ, born of Mary’, was intended to protect its readers from the evil eye, and it was commonly used at the beginning of inscriptions and documents of the time.
Have you stifled a yawn yet? I find this discovery intriguing because it reminds us that the Christian church had established early on that while Jesus was the Risen Christ, his human birth was essential to the faith.
In our United Church worship resource, Voices United there are a number of creeds and faith statements, including the Apostles Creed, and the Nicene Creed (918 and 920). Chances are most of you haven't heard or repeated either of them in decades, although I think son Isaac included a portion of one in a service in recent memory.
The phrase "born of the Virgin Mary" is in the Apostles Creed. In the Nicene Creed we find:
For us and our salvation he came down from heaven
was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and of the Virgin Mary
and became truly human.
Perhaps the "coming down" theology is a bit problematic, but the specificity of God becoming truly human is both the mystery and the glory of Christianity. It may not protect us from the evil eye, but it is the invitation to a way of experiencing God's present, incarnational, life-changing love. I find that after all these years as a Christian this is as important to me as it ever was.