Sermons That Work

The Mystery and Power of the Virgin Birth, Advent 4 (A) – 2004

December 19, 2004

Foretold by the prophet Isaiah seven centuries before it occurred, and now over 2,000 years after the event, the birth of Jesus in the somewhat obscure town of Bethlehem in Palestine is still the greatest story ever told. What makes this Christmas story unique and special, worthy of so many Hollywood movies and countless village reenactments?

A virgin woman conceiving a divine Son, a quiet boyfriend who listens to angels, poor shepherds watching over their flocks by night, Eastern kings following a yonder star, and a stable of domesticated animals provide the backdrop of this extraordinary story. The Incarnation of God in Jesus Christ is both a mystery and a miracle. If we try to explain the virgin birth, we would lose our reason; if we discredit it altogether, we would lose our souls. For true faith is beyond reason. It belongs to the fourth dimension that cannot be measured by time or space. The birth of Jesus as true God and true man is first of all the birth of faith.

Those who doubt Christ’s miraculous conception would say that it is all too common to exaggerate the doctrinal necessity of such a tenet. But if we reject the virgin birth, we also reject the inspiration of the Scriptures revealing the supernatural quality of such a birth. True faith rests on the declared fact that Christ was “conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary.” It would be a disservice to the Body of Christ to de-emphasize the Virgin birth as a mere myth.

Another aspect of the supernatural in our Lord’s birth was that in the moment of conception, the Holy Spirit took deity and humanity and, fusing them together, made possible the Lord Jesus, who came as the God-Man. The Spirit was the love-knot between our Lord’s two natures: fully God, fully human. In such a miracle there was no violation of the laws of nature but the introduction of a new Agent, the Holy Spirit, which supplied the seed, the seed which Joseph would have planted had Mary been his wife prior to this conception.

His name shall be called Emmanuel, “God-with-us.” What a wonderful revelation, especially to those who walk in the darkness and the shadow of death. The feeling and the thought that “God is with us” are a source of inspiration and strength. Emmanuel is a source of power to the powerless, a shelter from the storm, a hiding place and a refuge for the troubled soul.

There is indeed power in the Name of Jesus, the Emmanuel. Hundreds of years ago, during the Western missionary era in China, the Emperor was told that these “foreign devils” were converting the people to their faith. The Emperor asked whom they proclaimed, and when told of the Man from Nazareth who was born from the Virgin, who suffered and died on the Cross, the Emperor remarked: ”Leave them alone, who in his right mind would ever believe such a crazy story?”

History bears witness to the fact that today, despite the absence of foreign missionaries and a long history of religious persecution, Christianity in China continues to flourish—and not only in China. In Korea, India, the Philippines, throughout Asia and Africa—and throughout the whole the world—the Spirit of God is moving.

As people come to know Jesus as the Christ, they also learn that this God-Man was born of the Virgin Mary, suffered and died for our sins and lives again, giving us the hope and opening for us the gate to everlasting life. Amen.

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Christopher Sikkema


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