“…but he knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.”
One of the key truths that we find in the Christmas story is the virgin birth of Jesus. We see this emphasized, first of all, when the angel came to Mary announcing God’s plan for her. In Luke 1:27 we’re specifically told that the angel was sent to a virgin. And, when Mary asks the angel how she would become pregnant, the issue in her mind was that she was a virgin.
We see this emphasized again in Matthew’s account. We find that, when he discovered Mary was pregnant, Joseph planned to divorce her. But an angel spoke to him in a dream, telling him that the child conceived in her was from the Holy Spirit. In other words, the angel assured him that Mary had been faithful to him. She was still a virgin. And, for this reason, he was not to fear taking her as his wife.
Finally, we’re told in the above verse that Joseph didn’t know Mary (he didn’t have sexual relations with her) until she had given birth to a son. So, even though Joseph took Mary as his wife, she remained a virgin until the child was born. Again, the emphasis is on the fact that Jesus had no human father. Although Joseph was his father in the sense that he raised Jesus and cared for him, it was the Holy Spirit who fathered Jesus.
Even though we’re very familiar with this truth, it’s one that’s denied by many in our society today. There are many claims made when it comes to Jesus’ birth. For example, some claim that Joseph was Jesus’ actual father, while others say that Jesus was fathered by a Roman soldier.
It might be easy for us to think that it doesn’t really matter. We might be tempted think that, regardless of the identity of Jesus’ father, he did everything that was written of him in Scripture. Regardless of his father, he worked miracles. Regardless of his father, he revealed to us the Father. Regardless of his father, he taught us to love. And regardless of his father, he died on the cross.
However, when it comes to the message of salvation, the virgin birth of Jesus is essential. In fact, we can’t separate the two. If Jesus had been fathered by a man, he would be powerless to save.
It’s because of his supernatural conception that Jesus was free of sin. If Jesus had been fathered by a man, he would’ve been born in sin like the rest of us. And if Jesus was a sinner, he would be subject to the consequences of sin and powerless to save. But, because his father was God, he was not born in sin. And, throughout his life, he remained without sin.
It was this, it was his sinlessness, that enabled him to become the sacrifice for our sin. As we read in Hebrews 7:26-27: “For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself.”
It’s also because of the virgin birth that Jesus is the Son of God. We see this in verse 35 of Luke 1, which says: “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 called holy-- the Son of God.”
If Jesus had been fathered by a man, he would be a mere man. Even if he had certain giftings, which you and I do not possess, he would be no greater than us. It’s because he was conceived by the Holy Spirit that Jesus is holy. It’s because he was conceived by the Holy Spirit that Jesus is the Son of God.
So as you hear this Christmas story once again this week, and as you reflect upon it, may you realize the importance of the virgin birth. If Jesus had not been conceived of the Holy Spirit, had he not been born of a virgin, he would be powerless to save. But, because he was conceived by the Spirit, he is the Son of God, he is without sin, and he was able to offer himself up for the sin of the people.