Advent Devotion for December 18   14 comments

Above: Mary and Child Jesus, by Pierre Mignard, 1640

There Are No Illegitimate Children

DECEMBER 18, 2023



The days are coming,

says the LORD,

when I shall make a righteous Branch spring from David’s line,

a king who will rule wisely,

maintaining justice and right in the land.

In his days Judah will be kept safe,

and Israel will live undisturbed.

This will be the name given to him:

The LORD our Righteousness.

Therefore the time is coming,

says the LORD,

when people will no longer swear “by the life of the LORD who brought the Israelites up from Egypt”; instead they will swear “by the life of the LORD who brought the descendants of the Israelites back from a northern land and from all the lands to which he had dispersed them’; and they will live on their own soil.


For he will rescue the needy who appeal for help,

the distressed who have no protector.

He will have pity on the poor and the needy,

and deliver the needy from death;

he will redeem them from oppression and violence

and their blood will be precious in his eyes.

May the king live long!

May gifts of gold from Sheba be given him.

May prayer be made for him continually;

blessings be his all the day long.

May there by grain in plenty throughout the land,

growing thickly over the heights of the hills;

may its crops flourish like Lebanon,

and the sheaves be plenteous as blades of grass.

Long may the king’s name endure,

may it remain for ever like the sun;

then all will pray to be blessed as he was;

all nations will tell of his happiness.


This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.  His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph; before their marriage she found she was going to have a child through the Holy Spirit.  Being a man of principle, and at the same time wanting to save her from exposure, Joseph made up his mind to have the marriage contract quietly set aside.  He had resolved on this, when an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said,

Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home with you to be your wife.  It is through the Holy Spirit that she has conceived.  She will bear a son; and you shall give him the name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.

All this happened in order to fulfill what the Lord declared through the prophet:

A virgin will conceive and bear a son, and he shall be called Emmanuel,

a name which means

God is with us.

When he woke Joseph did as the angel of the Lord had directed him; he took Mary home to be his wife, but he had no intercourse with her until her son was born.  And he named the child Jesus.


Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


The birth of Jesus was a great scandal, one which persisted for decades.  The question of his paternity was a matter of whisper campaigns until the end of his life, at least.  I admit freely that I have major doubts relative to the virgin birth, so I cannot say with intellectual honesty that I believe it.  Yet that matter is trivial, and let us not become caught up in trivia.

Human societies have labels for children conceived outside wedlock.  These are allegedly “illegitimate” people.  And the males are “bastards.”  This more, which has some well-founded roots in family structures and inheritance laws, helps explain the term “son of a gun,” also.  Do not misunderstand me; I do not support indiscriminate sexual contact and conception of children.  There are vital matters of morality and family order to consider.  Yet there are no illegitimate people, for all of us bear the image of our divine Father, regardless of which male contributed half of our DNA.

Neither should people resort to threatening the life of the mother when paternity is in question.  This is a current issue in certain traditional societies in contemporary times.  Barbarous behavior is not an appropriate answer to alleged sexual immorality; two wrongs do not make a right.

This is an unlikely origin story for a king, but Jesus was no ordinary monarch.  No, he was much, much more.




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