As Christians around the world enter the season of Advent and approach the celebration of our Lord’s birth, they run the usual gauntlet of skepticism regarding the miracle of Christ’s virgin birth, not to mention the even larger miracle of the Incarnation (God becoming human), an event that occurred about nine months before Christ’s birth. To all such skeptics, and as an encouragement to believers, I offer the following consideration: the miraculous birth of Christ, admittedly without parallel in human history, nevertheless is overshadowed by a much more common miracle – the birth of every one of us!
Lately, we have certainly been enjoying the presence and sometimes lively voices of the newest members of our church family. To have babies in the congregation is to have renewed hope that the Church is living and has a future. How eyes have brightened and hearts warmed by seeing these newborns among us! Addressing God, the Psalmist wrote, “From the mouth of infants and nursing babes You have established strength because of Your adversaries…” (Psalm 8:2) Truly, I have known a number of people who were converted or greatly strengthened in their faith because of the births of their children. Although the baby develops, as the Bible poetically puts it, “in secret, and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth” (Psalm 139:15; the “earth” here compares the womb to the earth from which God made the first human), the appearance of the finished product at the end of this amazing process still leaves us breathless in awe! And now, with the advent of the sonogram and other means of tracing the development of a child in the womb, physicians, parents, scientists and all of us are growing more and more astounded at what takes place to make us. As the Psalmist also says to God, “For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well.” (Psalm 139:13-14)
We are each of us, and every living thing, the product of a miracle! Of course, many will object and say that we know the natural process the results in birth and there is nothing miraculous about it. Science has discovered the process and at no point is there anything that can’t be explained by recourse to natural laws. Very well, but look again at the quote above, from Psalm 139:15. By comparing the womb to the earth from which man was formed by God, the Psalmist points us back to the origin of human life, how it all got started. It turns out that the more we know about life in general and human life in particular, the less likely it appears to have been the product of nature. Instead, we must, if we are honest, invoke that other anciently recognized category of causation: art, otherwise known as design. Nature, in its basic components, is dead, dumb, blind and utterly without purpose. Of course, many people believe that nature produced beings that have consciousness, reason, feeling and purpose – namely, us! That seems very unlikely. The spontaneous generation of life from non-life is even less believable now than when considerable doubt was first cast upon it by the scientists, Francesco Redi and Louis Pasteur. The more we know about nature the less it seems possible to credit nature with the origin of life. But if we persist in crediting nature, we are forced into what might be deemed “miracles of chance” with probabilities falling considerably below the threshold scientists acknowledge to be realistically possible.
Yes, “hope springs eternal” in the minds of those who believe they will someday show how it could have been accomplished naturalistically with no input from a supernatural Creator. Meanwhile, the scientific evidence is mounting ever higher against their prejudice. But for us “simple-minded”, believing folk, the scientific evidence was hardly needed. Every form of life is a miracle, every birth a miracle and even the whole of nature is a miracle, for it was created by God and depends for its continued existence, on the will of God. That the scientific evidence, if not the majority of scientists so far (who still labor under the completely arbitrary and unnecessary hobble of philosophical naturalism) is coming out in favor of our faith instead of the faith of naturalism or materialism, is just icing on the cake! So whenever we see a newborn baby, we are looking at a miracle!
Since this is so, it is not hard to believe that Jesus was born of the virgin, Mary. The God who created us in the beginning chose to become one of us in the days of Caesar Augustus, uniting His divine nature with the body and soul He created in the womb of the virgin, Mary. This miracle, added to the usual miracle of human life, had long ago been prophesied: “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel [which means, “God with us].” (Isaiah 7:14) The “sign” was for the “the house of David” (verse 13) whose representatives were Mary and Joseph. (Mary’s lineage is found in Luke 3:23-37 and Joseph’s is found in Matthew 1:1-17.) The purpose of the virgin birth was not so much to show to us that Jesus was the Messiah but to assure His earthly parents. It is Mary’s testimony that the Gospel writer, Luke, has preserved for us. We accept her testimony as true for that son went on to show by many other signs that He was, in fact, the Son of God.
So we have two miraculous births – our own natural birth which is dependent upon God’s original miracle of creation, and the virgin birth of Jesus Christ, a miracle that has only happened once. But there is another miraculous birth which everyone may experience, if they are willing. That miracle is the new birth through sincere faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus said that we must be “born again” if we are to see and enter the kingdom of God (John 3:1-8). Peter, writing to believers “scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia”, blessed God because He had “caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you…” (1 Peter 1:1, 3-4)
John the Apostle testifies that “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God…” This faith is not a mere intellectual acceptance of the truth that Jesus is the Christ. John says that such faith “overcomes the world.” (1 John 5:1-5) In other words, true faith in Jesus overcomes the temptation to live as though this world is all there is. When someone lives with an eternal perspective, they are willing to sacrifice some things of this world that they might gain a better one. They “use the world, as though they did not make full use of it; for the form of this world is passing away.” (1 Corinthians 7:31) They see this life as a launching pad, a staging area, a preparation for a higher and greater life to come. They do not lay up treasure for themselves on earth but in heaven. (Matthew 5:19-21) They use “unrighteous mammon” to make friends for themselves so that when the wealth of this world passes away, these friends will receive them into “eternal dwellings”. (Luke 16:9) Those who are born again are “born of the Spirit”, having yielded to the work of God’s Spirit in their hearts. I know that you are a miracle and I know that Christ’s virgin birth was a miracle. What I want to know now: have you been born again to a living hope through faith in Jesus? That’s the miraculous birth that makes all the difference!