MaryLittle Lucy, determined to give full credit to her hero for his achievements, wrote the following in a history exam: "Abraham Lincoln was born February 12, 1809, in a log cabin he built himself." Jesus wasn't born in a log cabin he built himself, but he was born in a manager no less miraculously.

Miracles, frankly, don't rank very high on the scale of believability in modern thought. The plausibility of miracles occurring tests one's open-mindedness. To decide a priori that miracles can not occur in a world that is completely governed by inexorable laws of physics and biology is narrow-minded. To be truly broad-minded one must be open to the possibility that, "there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreampt of in your philosophy" (Shakespeare, Hamlet, line 166).

Those who adopt a philosophy that excludes the possibility of miracles will have trouble with the virgin birth of Jesus. But for those who open-minded to the possibility of miracles, this is one. For twenty centuries the Christian Church has declared its belief that "Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary." I believe that not just because the Apostles' Creed says it, but because the Bible says it.

Matthew tells us the story of a miracle that butts up against reality, makes a hole and enters. "Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, 'Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.' All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 'Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,' which means, 'God is with us'" (Matthew 1:18-23).

That God became a human being is the central miracle of the Christian faith. There are other miracles, but this is the main miracle. Every other miracle prepares for this, exhibits this or results from this. Miracles are not arbitrary sort-circuits of the natural order. They are not scattered willy-nilly at random. They are not disconnected raids on nature, but various steps of a strategically coherent invasion -- an invasion which will climax with the complete conquest and occupation of this world (Colossians 1:15-20).

At the present time, heaven's invasion of earth is obviously incomplete. For that reason, we pray "Thy kingdom come." It's not here yet, but it's on its way. Parts of this universe are still in rebellion against the King of kings. But the "glad tidings of great joy" announced by angels at the birth of Jesus assures us that we are not locked forever in a hopeless cycle of rebellion, evil, decay and death. Paul says, "I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God" (Romans 8:18-22).

Somehow, someday all of nature will participate in the redemption of Jesus Christ. The only hope of the natural is the supernatural. When the supernatural breaks through the natural in obvious ways, we call it a miracle. The miracle of the virgin birth was the way in which God became a man. Those who don't believe God became a human being obviously have great difficulty believing in the virgin birth of Jesus. The most amazing part of the miracle is not that Mary bore a child without having had sex, but that God, who made all that is, came personally to live on earth. How an ocean of deity can flow into that tiny pond of humanity and still be God is a mystery that boggles imagination. That God could be so great and stoop so low is the greatest miracle that has ever happened on earth.

God could have become a man in a variety of ways. Holy Scripture tells us the one way he chose. Some don't believe it, and I've read their books, but I find Matthew and Luke's account more convincing.

The biblical writers were both honest and informed. Their credentials for integrity are incontrovertible. They were the kind of people you can trust to tell the truth. No one living in the twentieth century is likely to be better informed on the circumstances of Christ's birth than Matthew and Luke. Neither were they naive about how babies were conceived. Pseudo-scientific snobbery assumes that ancient people were so ignorant they couldn't tell facts from fancy. But Joseph knew virgins don't get pregnant. And he would have been no less willing to believe his intended bride was an expectant virgin if he had a Ph. D. in gynecology. Both ancients and moderns alike know such things simply don't happen—except by miracle. The only difference is that the ancients were more open-minded to the possibility of a miracle happening.
Are you?
Jesus was born of the virgin Mary, but what does it mean?

His virgin birth is a sign to us of God entering history. That's the word Isaiah used to describe it, "This shall be a sign unto you…behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son" (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23). The virgin birth was the only sign Mary and Joseph had for almost thirty years. There were no other miracles until Jesus turned the water into wine at the marriage feast in Cana. God marked his entrance and his exit with two dramatic, unmistakable miracles: the virgin birth and the resurrection.

"Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th' Incarnate Deity." (Charles Wesley)

I believe in the virgin birth of Jesus, but believing that doesn't necessarily make me or you any better than believing any other piece of history--unless we are personally "enriched." Paul said "For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich" (2 Corinthians 8:9).

He who was rich became poor.
He who was almighty became a helpless infant.
He who was autonomous became a dependent child.
He who was the "Word" couldn't say a word.
He who knew everything knew nothing.
He who enjoyed the blessing of heaven endured the discomfort  
     of wet diapers.
He who created all things owned nothing.
He who was rich became poor.

And we who are poor become rich. He did it to make us rich—rich not in worldly things that pass away with time, but in the eternal riches of his kingdom (See Romans 2:4; Philippians 4:19). We have:

  •  A life that cannot be forfeited. Jesus said, "I give unto them eternal life and they shall never perish" (John 10:28). 

  • A relationship that cannot be broken. "What shall separate us from the love of Christ," Paul asks, "shall tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril or sword? ....No in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us" (Romans 8:35-39). 

  • A righteousness that cannot be tarnished. "God made him to be sin for us who knew no sin that we might become the righteousness of God through him" (2 Corinthians 5:21). 

  • An acceptance that can never be questioned. "He has made us accepted in the beloved" (Ephesians 1:6). 

  • A title that cannot be disputed. "Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us that we should be called the children of God" (1 John 3:1).

Jesus became poor that you might become rich. Unless you have been personally enriched, the virgin birth has no meaning for you. It was in vain that the Son of God emptied himself of the glory he had with the Father and became a man.

What does Jesus' birth move you to do? What difference does it make in your life? Surrender yourself in love and faith to the God who entered history by being born of a virgin and left it temporarily by being resurrected from the dead. He became like us in order that we might become something like him forever (Philippians 2:7; 1 John 3:2).

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