Get a load of this billboard from St. Matthews in the City, a progressive Anglican church in Auckland, New Zealand. I mean, Jesus, Mary and Joseph! Well, only Mary is shown, actually, and she's gazing at a positive pregnancy test—without copy of any kind. St. Matthews, which always does provocative billboards at this time of year, plans to leave this one up through Christmas Day. Vicar Glynn Cardy says the Christmas story "is about a real pregnancy, a real mother and a real child … Mary was young, unmarried and poor. She was certainly not the first woman in this situation, or the last." Lyndsay Freer, a Catholic Diocese official in New Zealand, counters: "St. Matthew's ignores the gospel account of matters surrounding the pregnancy and birth of Jesus, in which Mary is not a shocked solo mother but a young woman who has given her assent and trust to God." The church generated controversy in 2009 with a billboard showing Mary and her husband in bed and the headline, "Poor Joseph. God was a hard act to follow." Wise men (and surely women!) will debate the church's tactics, but I'll give the parish a divine thumbs-up for brazenly courting a less-than-immaculate reception this holiday season.
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