So often we can look at a text and hear it so often that we forget why the text is so extraordinary, and therefore we are not led to worship. And something that should be key this very day is worship of our great God and king. People today when they think of the birth narrative mostly recognize that Jesus was born under extraordinary circumstances but they do not seem to think they were as fantastic and other worldly as the Scriptures state they are. And the most important question that you will ever ask of yourself is: who is Jesus Christ? In fact the majority of people in Canada actually look at Christmas as more of a secular holiday than a religious celebration. And this has had a profound influence on believers who many times emphasize the other aspects of Christmas. We have stopped being overwhelmed with not only the goodness of God but being overwhelmed with how great and grand and good He has been to us. Christmas should show us and display to our hearts how much God is for us and not against us. It should cause us to be strengthened in our faith to such a degree that we not only celebrate His goodness but want others to celebrate His goodness.
As we look at this portion of Scripture, we need to stop and concentrate and really drink in what this passage is saying. And I really want us to concentrate on verse 23. This is a quote that is taken from Isaiah 7:14, and let me read it from the book of Isaiah because it is almost exactly the same as we find it here, “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.” The Rabbinic teaching in the first century is the Messiah was going to come and come from the royal line of David, but He was to be only a human leader that would lead the nation to greatness. But as you look at the O.T. account it indicates that the one who came would be no more or less human but He would be so much more. And this announcement by the angel to Joseph indicates the significance of the one who is coming. And this Christmas morning I want us to take just a few moment and consider the greatness of Christmas through the child that was given. And I want us to see two points this morning, and hopefully have our minds stretched to worship Christ this morning by seeing the miracle, and the outcome of the miracle.
1. We see the miracle. V. 23.
It is incredible to see all the nonsense that is written trying to explain away this miracle. One is to see this as a natural human conception. Jesus was really the offspring of Joseph and Mary, and that is all that you have. Many liberal scholars talk about God taking on human flesh but deny the virgin birth. They say that in order to have a human birth you have to have a male and female involved. Others will even go further down that road and say that Jesus was conceived because of the unfaithfulness of Mary; an accusation that was alive and well during the ministry of Jesus. Other will even go and say that something extraordinary happen and that is that it was a real virgin birth, and there was no male involved but it was not miraculous. The text, which was not written by Mary or Joseph, is so careful to emphasize that Mary was a virgin. Even at the end of the text we see that emphasis. Look at verse 25. Some life forms actually reproduce without the need of male fertilization, and science has yet been able to explain what really took place.
We miss the whole point of the text and that is that it is a miracle. It is so wondrous and so amazing that Joseph needs an angel to announce this message to him to make it clear. Humans are known to justify their wrongs with the most outlandish lies, but if Mary ever came with this story to Joseph how could he ever believe her. No, the explanation for this miraculous birth had to be other worldly. Even Mary when it was announced to her that she was with child and said how can this being seeing I have not known any man, the angel explain that the Holy Spirit will come upon you and even her aged relative Elizabeth is with child, and then gives this explanation in Luke 1:37, “For nothing will be impossible with God.” That statement by the angel Gabriel obliterates every argument against the virgin birth. God in his awesome power obliterates and does what is impossible for man, and that is the whole nature of a miracle. A miracle cannot be proven because by its very definition it is the suspension of natural laws. Some things might be odd and some might beat the odds but that is not a miracle. A miracle is something that is impossible to accomplish unless God intervenes, and that is what we have here.
Look at the text: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a son.” Now God wants all those who are reading this text to take notice of an important truth about the one who would be born. Now, as I said, this is a prophecy taken from Isaiah 7:14, and let me give you the background to that prophecy. The evil king Ahaz ruled Judah at this time. He set up idols throughout Israel, and would not worship the Lord, and he was threatened by two kings: Rezin king of Syria, and Pekah king of northern Israel, and both wanted to replace him with a king that would do their bidding. Instead of seeking help from God he chose to go to Tiglath-pleaser who was king of Assyria, and even gave him the gold from the temple as a tribute payment. Isaiah came and told Ahaz that the Lord would deliver him and that he could trust in him by asking God to give him a sign, but he refused, and so this sign was given. Now how does this sign relate to the trouble that Ahaz was in? It indicated that the monarchy would not end, and the greater king of David would certainly rule. This was the great threat that because of the opposition of these two kings the monarchy would end but here is a promise to Ahaz and other future Israelites of the truthfulness of God’s Word.
Now look who will conceive: “a virgin,” and in this case it is the one who Joseph is betrothed to. The idea here is that it would be a birth like none other and it would go against the pattern of all other births that have ever taken place. Many of the liberal scholars have hopped on the Hebrew word “almah” that is used in Isaiah 7:14 that the word means a young woman of marriageable age but not necessarily a virgin. Every time the word is used to describe a woman in the Bible it is used to describe a young woman of marriageable age who is a virgin. And certainly both Matthew and the angel understand the meaning of the word as they use this Greek term, which means virgin.
And this is a miracle. It is not that the Holy Spirit has physical relations with Mary or she would not be a virgin. It is not that the Holy Spirit provided the embryo and only implanted that embryo in Mary. There still needed to be a connection with our humanity or He could not be our brother, or He could not be one of us and die in our place. The earliest prophecy in Genesis 3:15 talks about the seed of the woman crushing the head of the serpent. There had to be a real and vital link between our humanity and his. The question becomes then how come the sin nature was not passed down? Some say because the sin nature is passed through the male, but anything Mary would have added would have been tainted and contaminated with sin. That is the doctrine of total depravity. The way there was no sin nature passed down to Christ is part and parcel of the mystery and the miracle. With man this is impossible but not with God.
Do you ever sit back, and marvel at all of the aspects of this miracle, and does it ever lead you to worship. With man this is impossible but with God nothing like this is impossible. He is worthy of worship.
2. We need to realize what this miracle produced. V.23
What an incredible verse that describes that the one who would come would be fully human and fully divine. This is what the mystery produced. Louis Berkoff, the great Reformed theologian wrote about this, “The doctrine of the two natures in one person transcends human reason. It is the expression of a supersensible reality, and an incomprehensible mystery, which has no analogy in the life of man as we know it, and finds no support in human reason, and therefore can only be accepted by faith on the authority of the Word of God.”
Now look at the text. Notice that it says, “they shall call His name.” Notice that the singular “His” is used. It is important when we describe the natures of Christ that we do so accurately. There are two natures but only one person. And as a person these natures are not competing against one another, but his deity took on humanity. We cannot even say this that at the virgin birth he became a person because He was already a person. And it also incorrect to say that His personhood is only divine. His person existed only as divine before the incarnation but forevermore it is human and divine. It is so easy to go off into error in trying to describe and understand what is as Berkoff says is incomprehensible. We must describe the virgin conception as the Word of God describes it.
A virgin being with child would be a child, a pregnant virgin, is a mystery in itself, and a wonder, but the next phrase of who came forth begins to stretch our minds and hearts with awe. Look at what the text says, “and they shall call His name Immanuel, which translated means, ‘God with us.’” The one who came would be no less than human but more than human. The one who came would be God. This goes along with the other famous prophecy in Isaiah, and that is Isaiah 9:6, “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; and the government will rest on His shoulders; and His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” This one who came will be the mighty, eternal God.
So why did God come in human flesh? The answer is twofold. One is to reveal God to us. Since God is invisible, how can we know Him through our senses such as the eyes, ears, hand? Can we know Him only intuitively? Certainly everything God does reveals something of His nature. Psalm 19:1-2 says, “The heavens are telling the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. Day to day pours forth speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.” In Psalm 139:14 we read, “I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works.” The stars, the planets, moon , sun, and our individual bodies and make up all reveal something of the power and wonder of God. We can learn much about God but that revelation is inadequate to truly show us what God is like, so God gave special revelation through the prophets. And even though this revelation gave us such a clearer declaration of who God is, Hebrews 1:1-2 spoke of a greater revelation: “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son.” The prophets spoke in dreams, and visions, and in direct revelation, but nothing compares to the complete revelation that has come through the Son because the Son is the radiance of God and the exact representation of His nature.” Colossians 1:15 says of Christ, “He is the image of the invisible God.” A person is not an object that can be weighed, and measured and then be known. We can have statistics about a person but that is not knowing them. No, in order to know a person, that person must reveal Himself, and that is what God has done in the God-man Jesus Christ. The fullest expression of the Father is through the Son.
Secondly, He has come to provide redemption. “God with us” could provide what we cannot provide for ourselves and that is salvation from God’s wrath. The eternal God becomes human to provide what we could never accomplish. Man is under and penalty and for God to be just that penalty must be enforced, and it is enforced through the Son. Everything that we need in a Saviour, Lord, Friend is found in Christ Jesus. Since I am under judgment some related to me must take my punishment. A sacrificial animal will not due because animals are not made in the image of God. If someone is going to pay my penalty then He must be like me. Jesus was born, lived a real human life, was in every way like me. He learned, grew, got weary, needed sleep, and had to eat. He laughed and breathed and lived in time like us. Everything that I need is found in Him except for one thing that is the wonder of God with us. He was and is God and therefore was sinless. If I am under a penalty because of my sin, then I need a Saviour who is unlike me in that He is sinless and we find that in Christ. He is our perfect substitute. He came to give His life and that perfect sacrifice, that perfect substitute. Only God in human flesh could pay that price, so Christ came.
Are you amazed that we can know God fully through Christ? Do we examine the Gospels to know Him and revel in Him more fully? And may all of us see that He is our only hope. May all of us grow in the grace of Christ, and the wonder that this was the only way, and may all of us grow to worship Christ.