The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. Luke 1:30-35
As we approach the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, once again I find myself marveling at the Scriptural account of how Jesus was conceived and why it matters so much to me. Years ago, I was surprised and a bit shaken by a very loud argument I witnessed involving a man who was a member of my church and a friend who was a retired pastor of another denomination. They were arguing over whether or not Mary, the mother of Jesus, was a virgin. My church member adamantly believed she was a virgin and my pastor friend just as adamantly did not. It was at that point that I clearly understood the difference between a conservative and a liberal view of Scripture. About that same time a report came out from a survey done with protestant pastors of all denominations. I was shocked at the high percentage of pastors who did not believe in the virgin birth. I began having conversations with different people and doing some study, sorting out what I believed and why.
People who do not believe that Mary was a virgin when Jesus was conceived tell me it’s impossible for anyone to be a virgin and become pregnant but that it doesn’t make any difference in who Jesus is as God’s Son. It doesn’t change their faith in Christ. I want to make it clear that I am not doubting the faith or salvation of those who say it doesn’t matter. This blog is just about my own view and why it matters a great deal to me.
First of all, I believe what Jesus told the disciples in Matthew 19, that with mortals, something could be impossible, but with God all things are possible. I believe that Jesus was able to perform miracles because he is Immanuel – God with us. And I believe that a virgin could conceive a child by the power of the Holy Spirit because with God all things are possible.
The virgin birth matters to me because if Jesus was conceived by a human man, as we all are, then I don’t see how Jesus could actually be God incarnate, fully human and fully God, the divine Son of God, the only man on earth who was without sin. And speaking of sin, I do believe that is why he came to earth – because of sin. If Jesus were merely a mortal, then his dying on a cross for the sins of humanity would have been a heroic thing but it would have really been for nothing. There is no human who could save us from our sinful selves. And I do believe Jesus shed his blood for the forgiveness of sins and for our salvation – that we could have eternal life with God.
The Scriptures call Jesus several names, two of which are Jesus – which means God saves, and Immanuel which means God with us. If Jesus was conceived and born as we all are, he would have truly been a most perfect human, a great prophet, an amazing teacher, but he could not save us and he would not have been God dwelling among us, as John 1 proclaims: The Word (Jesus) became flesh and dwelt among us.
As a human, a woman, a child of God, I have found great assurance that, as sinful as I am, I belong to God through Christ, my Savior, I am forgiven and know much grace. What I find impossible in the virgin birth is to not believe. It is simply impossible for me not to believe. For me, to not believe changes everything about Jesus, about Scriptures, about my faith. And as a preacher and pastor, I can’t imagine preaching any other truth. And I would not be able to profess the ancient Apostles’ Creed that we have said together so often at baptism:
I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth; and in Jesus Christ, His only Son Our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried …
Nor would I give any credence to the other, long-standing, early creed of the Church – the Nicene Creed:
We believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all the world. Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made: who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man. (We understand that the term “man” refers to all people.)
Clearly, I am conservative in my view of Scriptures. To me this is a matter of great importance in my faith and in how I, as preacher, preach the Word of God. I know many strong and faithful Christians who believe differently, but this is where I end up each time I think it over.
I love Christmas and all that it means; I love the hope and inspiration it brings, and we need both of those at this time, especially. I will focus more on all that in the next few blogs. In this time of so much fear and unrest in our country and world, may you find some peace, hope and inspiration in the true meaning and reason for Christmas. Right now, we are in the season of Advent, which means coming. Christ comes to us anew, bringing new hope to a world that lies in darkness and despair.
Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14. .And that name, Immanuel, my dear friends in Christ, means that God is with us. I know you will be blessed by listening and meditating on the beautiful song, Breath of Heaven, sung by my dear, faithful sister, Cindy Powell.
Peace and Grace,