It’s not unreasonable to say that there are some pretty crazy things we see in the story of Christmas. Angels announcing the coming of a fully-God-fully-man savior to a young virgin woman in a location as humble as a feeding trough… this is truly a birth like no other.
Turn to Luke and take a look at some of what Mary was told about the coming Messiah…
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”
Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”
Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”
The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. (Luke 1:26-35)
That’s an awful lot to swallow if you’re just a normal girl who is soon to be married and are now told you’re going to birth the savior of all mankind. This prophesied birth leaves us with a lot of questions. Why was the Messiah born to a virgin? Why did the Messiah have to be born at all if He is God and can do anything?
The Virgin Birth
The virgin birth is something that has become so mystified in Christianity that it has even tempted some to deify Mary (meaning to hold her almost as a God). There is a very practical reason why Jesus had to be born to a virgin, but to understand it we have to talk about what sin is and how sin spoils the relationship between God and mankind.
Before sin, God and man walked and talked in the garden of Eden. The relationship was perfect and unspoiled. Because there was no sin, nothing competed for man’s affect besides the presence of the Lord. When temptation came into the equation, it introduced sin because temptation competes for our affection towards God. In a way, sin can be defined as a distraction or separation in the relationship between God and man. Because both man and woman had sinned and fallen to temptation, it meant they were ‘infected’ with this condition which is why God cast them out of the Garden of Eden.
Much like a genetic disease, people passed sin down through their children for thousands of years. A child born of sinful people can not be without sin the same way that two parents with a genetic disorder are likely to pass their genetic material on to their children. Something had to change the equation. Something had to be introduced to break the chain of sin birthing more sin.
This is where we introduce God. By God interjecting into the equation and causing Mary to have a child, a different product was born, one without sin or blame. The fully human who was born was born without a sinful ‘genetic condition’. So why be born to a virgin? There could be a lot of reasons ranging from there being something theological that we have a hard time understanding about a virgin to it being as simple as God wanting us to have no doubt that Jesus was the Son of God, not just a normal human impostor. By Jesus being born to the virgin Mary, there would be no doubt in anyone’s head that Jesus comes from something divine.
Why Have a Savior At All?
Sometimes around Christmas I get asked why God couldn’t have just saved creation without the birth of a savior ultimately leading to a horrifying death and resurrection. Is it really just that God wanted us to have some sort of horribly graphic metaphor to help us believe?
Warning, this might blow your mind a bit.
Consider what is to come in the end-times. God will come down and raise from the dead all those martyrs who lost their lives due to their faith (Rev 20) and the kingdom will stand for a thousand years. This kingdom will be ruled by judges who will serve as priests to God. Because this kingdom is a kingdom of God, it can not exist in conjunction with sin because God and sin can not exist simultaneously. Remember, sin, by definition, is competing affection and separation from God. How can something be of God and separated from God at the same time? In order for these judges and priests to live and reside in the new kingdom, they must have grace from their sin to make them clean. By God sending a fully-God-fully-man savior to earth to interrupt the sinful equation we discussed previously, He provided that route for these people to rule this thousand year kingdom.
But wait, that’s not all.
Every kingdom needs a ruler, right? This earthly kingdom in the “new earth” will need a ruler. In order to have a new ruler on this earth, God would have to come and reside on earth. By Jesus being born a man and living as a man without sin, He is the qualified ruler of this “new earth” that will follow the thousand year kingdom (Rev 21). Not only does the earthly kingdom need a God-ruler who is of this earth, but it is also set aside for all of us. God doesn’t want an empty kingdom; He wants for all of us to live with him in this heaven-on-earth! Because sin cannot exist simultaneously with God, there needed to be a pathway for all of us to be freed of our sin. This is why Christ needed to come to earth, live as a fully-God-fully-man and interject a “cure” for the genetic disease we had been passing down for generations. Even though we still live with sin, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ frees us from the bondage of sin and allows us to be forgiven and made clean. With grace, we are qualified to live in this new heaven-on-earth!
But Wait… If God Exists Forever, Was Jesus “Created” on Christmas?
Here is where we really start grasping how huge of a commitment God made for us in this birth like no other. Was Jesus “created” when He was born to Mary?
Let’s take a look at excerpts from Isaiah and Galatians…
For a child is born to us,
a son is given to us.
The government will rest on his shoulders.
And he will be called:
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6)
But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. (Galatians 4:4)
What we see in the Old Testament and in the New is that Jesus was “given” and “sent” to earth. Both of these show that Jesus wasn’t some being created at His birth. Jesus is a facet of our one true God. He always was, always is, and always will be. He is omniscient just like God the Father and is all-powerful. This means that the eternal Jesus knew what waited for Him on earth. He knew His fate. He knew about the beatings, the emotional rejection, the spilled blood and pain he would suffer on the cross. He knew that He would be subjected to rejection and ridicule from those He sought to save.
Despite all of that, He still came. He still humbled Himself to be born a man and live a life without reproach. He still came to die for Joseph and Meredith and Jordan and Delaney and Alex and everyone else. He loved each and everyone one of us so deeply that He willingly walked into the slaughter so that we could join Him in His restored kingdom.
This leaves us with one final question: do we accept the Christ who was born like no other? Do we reciprocate the love God showed for us by coming to earth to be a living sacrifice or are we still sitting on the sidelines? It’s something worth thinking about.