Some children were interviewed and asked one question: where do babies come from. Here are their answers:
- “People call the White House and tell the president they want a baby. If the president approves, you are pregnant.”
- “My priest has a cane, so I think when you get married the priest makes a rainbow with his cane (like a leprechaun) and you walk through it and come out pregnant.”
- People like little nesting dolls. The dad had the mom, the mom had the oldest child, the oldest child had the second child, and so on.”
- My friend told me that girls get pregnant from riding piggy-back with a guy.”
- “I think you get pregnant by eating too much. When my little brother was born, I yelled at my mom to go on a diet and would hide food from her.”
- “I think parents pick out a star and if they wish really hard, the star would fall and end up in the mommy’s tummy….and then the mom poops the baby out.”
Clearly some parents have some explaining to do. Here’s another creative conception idea:
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.–Luke 1:26-32
If you’ve been to church on Christmas Eve, you’ve probably heard these verses before. The virgin Mary is with child. But come on. Really? How believable is that? At first glance it’s just about as believable as parents picking out a star or getting pregnant by riding piggy-back with a guy. And that’s about how believable it sounded to Joseph, May’s fiancée, too. Joseph was a good guy. He didn’t want to make a whole public deal about it, but he wasn’t buying that story for a moment. All he knew was, Mary is pregnant and I wasn’t invited to be part of it.
Believe It or Not
It may be hard for some to believe, but as Christians it’s a fundamental part of what we believe. In fact, it’s such a crucial part of our faith that it’s the third tenant of the Apostles Creed, right after believing in God, the Father and Jesus. I don’t think these are necessarily in order, but truth is, the virgin birth for some of you might not make the list of most important things for you to believe about God. If you got in a conversation with someone over coffee at Starbucks, and they asked you, “What are the most important things to believe about your faith?” what would you say? You might talk about forgiveness. You might talk about the peace God promises. You might tell your friend how God has given your life purpose. You might talk about the power God has to make change in your life. My guess is you would not open with “The virgin birth.”
I’m guessing too that some of you, if you were honest, would say, “Actually, I’m not even sure Jesus was born of a virgin. It’s not really all that important to me. Jesus was a good man with some great wisdom and I don’t really care about all that supernatural stuff.” There are a lot of people who think like that. Jesus was a good teacher and had some interesting takes, but I don’t really need him to be magical Jesus.
Certainly you are welcome to believe whatever you want. If you think that Jesus was simply a good moral teacher and not much else that’s cool, but I at least want you to hear another possibility.
I believe in God the father. I believe in Jesus his son. And I believe he was born of a virgin. And that third truth is just as important as the first two. If you believe in God the Father and you believe in Jesus his son, but don’t believe the last point, then I don’t think you are going to like the God you’re serving. In fact, I believe that your belief system will become everything that you don’t like about religion.
If Jesus is a good moral teacher, then what he is in your life is a old wise sage. He’s Socrates. He’s Ben Franklin. He’s William Shakespeare. He’s Dr. Phil. He’s got some good ideas, but that’s about it. If Jesus is just a good teacher, nothing too miraculous about him, then he becomes to-do list Jesus. Just some old guy telling you what you should do with your life. Jesus is a Ted Talk.
For Jesus to make a difference in your life he has to be more. He has to be a miracle worker. He has to hear directly from God. He has to be born of a virgin. Otherwise I’m not sure he can help you any more than a good self-help book.
According to Ray Pritchard in the book Creedo,
In order for Christ to be our Savior, three conditions had to be met:
- He must be a man. And angel could not die for our sins
- He must be an infinite man. A mere mortal could not bear the infinite price that have to be paid for our sins.
- He must be an innocent man. A sinner could not die for the sins of others
The virgin birth guarantees that our Lord fulfills all three conditions.
Baseball and Jesus
Here’s the good news: the virgin birth is not just what we believe…it’s believable. Because the reality is, most people in your life don’t care what you believe, especially about God. They want to know if what we believe is believable. So it’s my job today to convince you that the virgin birth actually happened. It’s on me to prove that to you.
That’s hard to do. How can I convince you about how a child was conceived over two thousand years ago in the middle east? Reality is, you can’t remember when your kids were conceived. If you can, I don’t want to know. Keep that story to yourself. Trust me on this, your kids don’t want to know the story either. Most people can’t pin down conception, so how can you do that when the child was conceived 2000 years ago? I’ve got my work cut out for me. Maybe we should just close in prayer and be done with it. But I don’t think so.
I have two words that prove the virgin birth: Babe Ruth. During the 1932 World Series in 1932, at Wrigley Field in Chicago the Yankees and the Cubs were tied 4 to 4 in the fifth inning. Charlie Root was on the mound. It was a particularly rowdy Wrigley Field crowd that day. After Root got two strikes on the Babe, the Chicago bench was really riding him. At that point Babe Ruth made a pointing gesture toward the center field fence as if to say “The next one is going over the fence.” There is actual recorded audio of Babe claiming that is exactly what he was thinking. True to his word, the Babe hits a Charlie Root fastball an estimated 490 feet into the center field bleachers. Historians are not sure exactly what the Babe was pointing at. Some say he was pointing to the dugout to get them to shut up. Some say he was holding out two fingers to say that he only had two strikes. But if the Babe truly was calling his shot, it would definitely secure his legacy as one of the greatest hitters of all time.
So what does that have to do with the virgin birth? Let me tell you a not-so well-known Bible story: Ahaz is the king of Judah and two countries were bearing down on him to overtake Judah. The country was gripped with fear. Then God sent the prophet Isaiah to calm them. God sends word from Isaiah to Ahaz that he’s going to be okay. Then God does him one better. He speaks directly to Ahaz and says this:
10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, 11 “Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.”—Isaiah 7: 10-11
Basically, God grants Ahaz a wish. I will do any sign you want. I will prove myself to you in any way you can think. To that point in history, God had parted the Red Sea, he had spoken from a burning bush, he had brought plagues of frogs and flies and locusts. He turned a woman into a pillar of salt. Ahaz could have asked for any magic trick and God would have done it. Or he could have gone the other direction. He could have asked for God’s favor. He could have asked to be the wisest man ever like Solomon did. He could have asked for wealth and prosperity. Think about that for a moment. If God asked you for a sign what would you say? I want to win the Lotto? Get me a Ferrari? Maybe you would ask him for something truly impossible like have the Padres win the world series next year? Ahaz could have asked for anything. Long life. No wrinkles. Weight loss.
12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test.”—Isaiah 7: 12
Ahaz was not a good king and he certainly wasn’t a spiritual man. He once offered his son as a sacrifice to the god Moloch. When he died at 36 he wasn’t placed among the sepulcher of kings. But at this moment he fakes it. He pretends like he is so spiritual that he doesn’t need a sign from God. But God promises a sign anyway.
13 Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? 14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel. 15 He will be eating curds and honey when he knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, 16 for before the boy knows enough to reject the wrong and choose the right, the land of the two kings you dread will be laid waste.”—Isaiah 7: 13-15
God Called His Shot
Did you see what God did there? He called his shot. This moment was 700 years before the birth of Jesus. 700 years after those words were said, Mary would say them to Joseph. She was pregnant and this is the excuse she would give. God made me pregnant. Why would she come up with this excuse? It could not be less believable. When she told Joseph he didn’t believe her. It wasn’t until an angel convinced Joseph of it that he actually believed. Her whole town disowned her. No one would believe that story. But still God called his shot:
- This child born to you will be different.
- This child will not have the same origin.
- He will be human, but will not have the same sin nature that other humans do. He will be sinless.
- He will be my child and to prove it from day one he will be born of a virgin.
I Believe in …..Bill
Let’s get back to that conversation with your friend at Starbucks about “What are the most important things to believe about your faith?” You probably wouldn’t start with virgin birth. You might talk about God’s love and forgiveness and comfort and peace. I’m guessing, you might also talk about the power of God. That God has strength to get your through tough times. That God can intervene on your behalf. Let me tell you something you may not have known. You can’t talk about the God of power without accepting that Jesus was born of a virgin.
When it comes to these kinds of topics, it’s easy to say, “I don’t really believe that but I do believe in Jesus. I do believe in God. But I don’t believe in the virgin birth or that Jonah was swallowed by a whale or that the red sea parted. Those are all just analogies. They didn’t really happen. They are just object lessons.”
If that is what you believe then Jesus isn’t the name of your god. There is a god that people have worshiped from the beginning of time but he doesn’t have the name Father Almighty, or Jesus Christ. Do you know what his name is? It’s Bill. Or Greg or Sandy or Mike. Or it’s you. You are God.
It’s important to have a God who was born of a virgin and who gave sight to the blind and raised the dead, because you don’t need a wise sage. You have enough people telling you what to do. I’m guessing you know what you want to do in your life. You know how you want your marriage to go and how your kids should be raised and what you should be doing and not doing. You know your habits and you have the information necessary to break those habits. But you can’t do it. You’ve tried to muster up the discipline to do all those things, but time and time again you’ve failed. You’ve read the books and watched the Ted Talks and spoken with the experts and made your own New Year’s resolutions and by the time February rolls around you’ve given up on all of them.
We don’t need another to-do list. We don’t need an old, wise sage. We need someone who can actually help us with our problems. We need someone with access to miracles. We need someone who can intervene on behalf of our kids who are struggling. We need someone to break through the stubbornness of a distant spouse. We need a miracle to overcome that lifelong habit that is locked around our ankles. I don’t need Ben Franklin. I need Jesus. Conceived by the Holy Spirit. Born of a virgin. How about you?
Do You Believe?
I can’t prove virgin conception to you 2000 years after the facts but you know what? I think it’s believable. How about you? Please reply in the comments section and let me know, did I convince you? Is it believable? Can you say with me that “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary…”?