A few years ago I saw that a former college friend of mine was doing an hour’s programme about Christmas on Radio four. We tuned in with enthusiasm, but were bitterly disappointed.
He spent the whole hour undermining the truth of most parts of the Christmas story. What a lost opportunity! What a tragedy that our friend had changed his position on Scripture!
Of course, the liberals will claim sophisticated, scholarly reasons for doubting or denying the Virgin Birth. But really, if we’re brutally frank, it is a simple embarrassment with the idea of God supernaturally intervening in the world. And yet this is the whole meaning of Christmas.
The laws of nature are not cosmic Laws of the Medes and the Persians which cannot be altered. They are simply descriptions of how God normally works. He can (and does) sometimes work differently. He did with the birth of Mary’s boy-child.
The Incarnation (or ‘in-fleshing’) of the second person of the Trinity is fundamental to Christianity. He is no mere prophet as the Muslims, Jews and others regard him. He is the God-man.
Christianity alone believes God came down to redeem mankind. Other religions encourage men to earn or meditate their way to God. Christianity says God took the initiative and man responds.
Jesus is a bridge from God to man. Other religions are attempts to build bridges from man to God – and they don’t reach. The message of Christmas is that Christ alone is the way to God. No one comes to the Father but through him.
The virgin birth (or, more accurately, the virginal conception) shows Jesus was the God-man from the beginning. He wasn’t a human embryo or baby or person who was taken over by God at some later stage in life. He was divine and human from the moment of his miraculous conception.
It is increasingly fashionable today (especially in the New Age Movement) to regard Jesus as a mere man who was at some stage of his life overshadowed and controlled by the ‘Christ-spirit’. So when these people talk of Christ they are not referring to Jesus but to some supernatural being: in fact the spirit of antichrist (“anti” means “in place of”).
Had Jesus been conceived in the normal way by Joseph and Mary and then subsequently the divine ‘Word’ had united with him, the result would have been two persons: one human and one divine. This is an ancient heresy, long rejected by the church but by implication, accepted by some modern church leaders. The virgin birth shows Jesus is one person with two natures: human and divine.
The Bible also teaches that Jesus was sinless. If he were not, then the Cross would not have been a sacrifice acceptable to God and we would be lost. The Christian doctrine of original sin teaches that sinful tendencies are passed from parent to child. Consequently some miraculous intervention must have taken place to prevent any of Mary’s sinfulness from tainting Jesus. That miraculous intervention was the virginal conception.
Jesus is the ‘last Adam’. In him a new race was created, a new humanity of those who are in Christ. It is a new and undefiled stream of human life composed of men liberated from the past with its inheritance of weakness and shame. Just as Adam was specially and uniquely created as the first man, so it is fitting for Christ, the ‘last Adam’ to be specially created (in terms of his humanity) by the Holy Spirit.
The early Christians accepted the story of the virgin birth, yet Mary lived until after the Ascension so she could have corrected it, had it been false. The Jews implied Jesus was illegitimate (e.g. John 8 v 41). So-called parallel stories in other religions are often about lustful gods having relations with women. To parallel these with the Christmas story is at best inaccurate and at worst blasphemous.
The Gospel writers clearly intend their accounts to be taken literally. Not to do so is to undermine the whole basis of the Gospel.
© Tony Higton: see conditions for reproduction