In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, "Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you." But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" The angel said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God." Then Mary said, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her. Luke 1:26-38
This story is close to my heart. I was raised in a church of that name: "Annunciation". I held fast to that little church... literally. As children, we used to climb along a ledge on its outer walls pretending to be litle cat burglers and little spidermen while our mothers performed their altar guild duties (until the sexton came outside and swatted us with his broom). I have circled the most difficult corner for us spiderpeople to negotiate.
I have held fast to Luke's account as well in spite of all efforts to sweep the story away.
I read one such attempt the other day at ReligiousTolerance.org, and I think it should be required reading because it shows what Christian apologetics is up against. The post is craftily worded and rather lengthy, and will seem quite convincing to many modern readers (not that our youth are much into reading these days). I will only quote the conclusion, because in the end, this is where all such attempts to explain away the Bible wind up.
"Instead of taking the nativity stories in Matthew and Luke literally, and thereby doing a disservice to historicity and rational thought, we should accept them as religious myths. They are beautiful legends embodying faith in the supernatural and the efficacy of prophecy. They are attempts by these gospel authors to put into words their conception of a momentous, divine event. And they do so in a manner consistent with what credulous people in ancient times expected.They end in heresy.
Although we shall never be sure about the exact circumstances of Jesus' birth, we do know that about two thousand years ago, there was born in what is now called Palestine an extraordinary Jew who was to change profoundly the course of human history." - R.C. Symes "Myths surrounding Jesus' birth," as interpreted by Progressive Christians.
In this case, Arianism?
In any case, the ultimate conclusion from any argument that attempts to prove that the virgin birth is a myth is to find that God is not omnipotent. The argument thus ends up saying that, "Here is something that God cannot do."
The above example of a denunciation of the Annunciation is just one of many attempts to discredit the Christmas story that you might see each year around this time. In my opinion, these are showing up with increasing frequency. They sometimes are heard within the walls of the church itself (case in point Bishop Spong). This increase means that the enemies of the Gospel are growing in power, and the apocalyptic part of me is concerned that the day is coming when the followers of the Gospel will be "bombed back into" the first century, maybe not with bombs made from explosives, but instead with the social bombs of discrimination, name calling, and isolation.
If this happens, the Gospel will of course survive, but it will be up to determined defenders of the Faith to help pass it along to some future generation that will respond to its call.
And when revisionists have taken over the historic church buildings, it just might take a new generation of little cat burglers and little spidermen to break in and shatter the myths of the modern mythologists.