Christmas Words of Grace: Tuesday

Christmas Words of Grace: Tuesday

Originally posted on December 21, 2010

I hope these readings will help you focus your mind on Jesus and consecrate your heart to him during this Christmas season. 

Glory to God in the Highest,

The Virgin Birth

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” Luke 1:35

“Virgin birth” is a misleading expression, suggesting that there was something unusual about Jesus’ birth, whereas his birth was entirely normal and natural. It was his conception that was abnormal, indeed supernatural, for he was conceived by the operation of the Holy Spirit, without the cooperation of a human father.

Matthew and Luke make an unambiguous affirmation that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary. It is evident, moreover, that they were writing prose, not poetry, history, not myth. Why, then, did Mark and John not do the same thing? Answer: because they both chose to begin their narrative with John the Baptist. Their silence about the virgin birth no more means that they did not believe in it than their silence about his childhood means that they thought he had none. The important point is that the only two evangelists who recorded his birth both declare that he was born of a virgin.

We move on now from the historicity of the virgin birth to its significance. Does it matter? It does. The angel’s annunciation was in two stages.

The first (vv. 31-33) stressed the continuity that Mary’s child would enjoy with the past, because she would bear him, and he would occupy the throne of his father David. That is, he would inherit from his mother both his humanity and his title to the messianic kingdom. The second section (v. 35), stressed the discontinuity between the child and the past, because the Holy Spirit would come upon Mary, and the creative power of God would overshadow her, so that her child would be unique, sinless (“the holy one”), and the Son of God.

In this way, what was announced to the Virgin Mary was her son’s humanity and messiahship, derived from her, while his sinlessness and deity would be derived from the Holy Spirit. As a result of the virgin birth, Jesus Christ was simultaneously Mary’s son and God’s son, human and divine.

For further reading: Luke 1:33-35

John Stott, Through the Bible, Through the Year: Daily Reflections from Genesis to Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006), 141-148.