Announcements of the upcoming birth of babies are exciting. I will never forget the surprise announcement of the expected birth of our first grandchild. We, and our daughter-in-law’s parents and some friends enjoyed a great meal in a restaurant. Following the meal Jenny handed Pat and her mom, Paula, a gift. Both ladies tore the wrapping away and stared at a book entitled, “101 Ways to Spoil Your Grandchild.” Jenny’s sheepish grin and Mark’s broad smile told the story—They were going to have a baby! We were going to be grandparents!
There is something thrilling about an impending birth. Childbirth is an amazing event. The birth of a baby is both exhilarating and mortifying. To be there when that breath is taken, the cry comes forth, and that little one begins to move is simply awesome. Then to hold that newborn in your arms is beyond description.
In last week’s devotional, The Anticipation, we learned that some people had been anxiously waiting for the Messiah to be born. Four hundred years of silence had followed the death of God’s last prophet, Malachi. During these four centuries Israel had fallen under the domination of Persia, Alexander the Great, the Seleucids, and then Rome.
The coming of Jesus was right on schedule according to God’s plan. The Bible tells about the most unique conception and birth of the one-and-only God-Man in the history of humanity—Jesus! There were three things that make His Birth Announcement the most amazing of all:
1. The Angelic Mission….”the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee” Luke 1:26
During the “sixth month” of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, before she gave birth to John the Baptist, the angel Gabriel came to Mary with a message. This angel seems to be one appointed to carry messages from God to people on earth. Over 500 years before, Gabriel revealed to the prophet Daniel, God’s plan for Messiah’s birth (Dan. 9:20-27). The angel Gabriel was the one who brought word to Zacharias about the future birth of John the Baptist (Luke 1:19). Now, six months later, Gabriel is dispatched to northern Galilee with a message from God for this young woman.
The angel’s mission originated with God, for he “was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth.” The heavenly message was “to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph” (verse 27). This chosen mother of the Lord Jesus had to be a virgin because of morality, but much more; because it was prophesied: “Behold a virgin will be with child and bear a son” (Isaiah 7:14). The Savior had to be virgin born because He would be “Immanuel,” or “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). The Child born to Mary would be God’s “only begotten Son” (John 3:16).
2. The Astounding Message…”you will conceive in your womb and bear…Jesus” Luke 1:31
Mary’s reaction to Gabriel’s announcement was understandable as, “she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept wondering what kind of salutation this was” (verse 29). The angel announced that Mary had found favor with God and would bear a son, “and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High” (verses 31-32). The name “Jesus” in Hebrew means “Savior” and that is what He was. “You shall call his name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).
3. The Awesome Miracle… “the holy Child shall be called the Son of God” Luke 1:35
For one man to be the Savior of the world required one special birth—one unique Man—and one exclusive sacrifice—and that is what Christmas is all about. Virgin women do not give birth to children, so Christ’s birth required an exceptional miracle for all ages. Mary’s conception was a result of divine, not human, action. Gabriel explained: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God” (verse 35). Mary must have looked dumbfounded, because the angel reminded her: “Nothing will be impossible with God” (verse 37).
This miracle—the virgin birth of Christ—receives the harshest criticism of any doctrine of Christianity. Even among believers, there are doubters. In a fairly recent survey of protestant students of theology (people who become pastors and missionaries), 56% rejected the truth of the virgin birth of Christ. The reason for such unbelief is that it is humanly impossible—but there is no doctrine more essential in God’s plan. If there is no virgin birth, there is no one qualified to be Savior. The only One who can bear the sins of people is the One who had no sin, in His nature or practice; the only natural born son of God!
So, why is the virgin birth of Christ so important? Three Reasons:
First: Because Jesus had to be like us: “Therefore He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17). Jesus could die for our sins because, with Mary as His mother, He was a human being. A human had to pay the price for humans.
Second: Because Jesus had to be unlike us: “For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens” (Hebrews 7:26). Our Savior had to be human—yet sinless—hence divine (Heb. 4:15).
Third: Because Jesus had to die for us. The Lord’s birth made Him one of us—His virgin birth made Him sinless—so He could sacrifice Himself for sinners: “Who does not need daily to offer up sacrifices, first for his own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself” (Hebrews 7:27).
Christmas is special because of The Anticipation…The Announcement… and next: The Arrival!