The readings are from the Catholic lectionary for daly mass while the headline is meant tokeep my thinking real:
Jeremiah 23:5-8 ©
See, the days are coming – it is the Lord who speaks –
when I will raise a virtuous Branch for David,
who will reign as true king and be wise,
practising honesty and integrity in the land.
In his days Judah will be saved
and Israel dwell in confidence.
And this is the name he will be called:
So, then, the days are coming – it is the Lord who speaks – when people will no longer say, “As the Lord lives who brought the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt!” but, “As the Lord lives who led back and brought home the descendants of the House of Israel out of the land of the North and from all the countries to which he had dispersed them, to live on their own soil.”
If there was a real Jeremiah he lived at the time when the nation was threatened with disaster and exile in Babylon, probably going into exile with them, but also visiting Judaean exiles in Egypt. The book that bears his name contains some of his words together with much other material ascribed to him by editors.
There are two great inventions in the book: the voice of the prophet and the voice of God, both of which are passionate, angry and sorrowful. A few prophecies look forward to a time when God will redeem his people. Here Jeremiah predicts a new exodus, a new act of rescue by God. His spirit will inspire a new king of the Davidic line, who will, unlike his predecessors rule with justice. The common life of the people will express their trust in God’s goodness. All this is summed up in the new name they will give to God, in Hebrew adonai tsidqenu, which contains the word tsedaqah, which is one of the key terms used by the prophets: it means righteousness, goodness, integrity. It represents a faith that the character of God, expressed in the Torah, is mirrored in the real character of human beings, so that Jeremiah can say that the Torah will be written on human hearts. It’s a profound faith that God does not come as an outsider to the human heart but as its maker and partner.
Martin Luther, with a little help from St. Paul, turned this great vision into the notion that we have no righteousness of our own but God declares us righteous people if we trust in Him. That’s certainly not Jeremiah’s meaning. He does not see God as the divine stranger who credits us with something that is not ours, but rather as the one who is the true partner of our deepest desires and our best sense of identity, not only as individuals but as people in community; the one in whom we find and maintain our integrity.
Matthew 1:18-24 ©
This is how Jesus Christ came to be born. His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph; but before they came to live together she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph; being a man of honour and wanting to spare her publicity, decided to divorce her informally. He had made up his mind to do this when the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you must name him Jesus, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins.’ Now all this took place to fulfil the words spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son
and they will call him Emmanuel,
a name which means ‘God-is-with-us.’ When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do: he took his wife to his home.
In a recent blog I’ve given readers my view that the Virgin Birth is not a useful invention of Gospel storytellers as it quite unnecessarily provides a supernatural impregnation to explain Jesus’ unique status as Son of God. Indeed if God is our integrity, as Jeremiah says, then there is no reason why God’s Son should not be conceived in the normal way. Perhaps only Jesus could say with complete truth,”The Lord my integrity”, just as people could think only of him as “God with us.” But he was not like that because he had some divine DNA or a “son of God” implant in his brain. He became the humanity of God because he learned how to be it, just as we can learn to be God’s children from him.
I should warn readers that this is bad theology that does not give proper respect to the biblical stories of Jesus’ birth or the to the doctrine of the trinity. On the contrary I have every respect for both of these, but none at all for the idea that Jesus had a supernatural advantage over the rest of us.