I had very little to do in the delivery room when my four girls were born. My wife was the hero. She sweated, strained, pushed and gasped for hours. I stroked her arm a few times — and ate some doughnuts.
There was a normal amount of blood but no serious complications. Our oldest daughter took forever to be born. Our second was in such a hurry that we thought she might end up on the hospital floor. Our third tied her umbilical cord in knots in the womb. And our youngest calmly slipped out as if to say, "OK, I'm born. What's next?"
Normal births are amazing, whether they occur in hospitals or homes or the back seats of taxis. But when I consider the birth of Jesus, I'm in total awe — not just because of Mary and Joseph's bumpy ride from Nazareth, Mary's lack of a doctor (and no anesthesia!) and the crudeness of the manger, but also because of how Jesus was conceived.
Mary was a virgin. Joseph, the "father," had nothing to do but stand in the background.
Secularists and liberal theologians have mocked the Christian belief in the virgin birth for centuries. Thomas Jefferson called it a fable while Episcopal heretic John Shelby Spong called it an "entrance myth." The concept of a woman giving birth to a baby without a man's involvement is ludicrous to unbelievers. It contradicts all the laws of biology.
Yet Mary was not a scoffer. She asked the angel how she would bear this promised Messiah and he said, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you" (Luke 1:35, NASB).
I would have asked for more scientific information. How exactly will the ovum be fertilized? I would also have questioned God about the gossip this unusual situation might trigger. Aren't people going to get the wrong idea? Won't they accuse Joseph and Mary of fornicating?
But Mary didn't quibble over details or worry about the fallout. She believed Gabriel's announcement and submitted to God in childlike faith. She told him, "May it be done to me according to your word" (v. 38).
The Greek word for "overshadow" used in verse 35, episkiazo, is a reference to the cloud of God's presence that materialized in Moses' tabernacle. The Amplified Bible Classic Edition translates Luke 1:35 as He "will overshadow you like a shining cloud." This same cloud hovered over the Ark of the Covenant, led God's people through the wilderness and filled Solomon's temple with radiant shekinah glory.
Think about it: The same cloud of glory that caused Moses' face to shine hovered over a virgin and deposited a divine seed in her womb. The God who hid behind a veil in the Old Testament clothed Himself in human flesh in the New Testament.
The Incarnation cannot be explained in purely biological terms. There was nothing sexual about it, yet Mary's ovum was fertilized without Joseph's sperm. Divinity merged with humanity. Jesus, fully God and fully man, began a nine-month gestation.
When the Savior was born, there was a normal amount of blood, sweat and tears — because Mary was human. But this birth was surrounded with wonder because Joseph was not the father. He came from a line of Hebrew kings but his pedigree was not enough to save the human race. He could not contribute to this miracle.
Doubters think Joseph got Mary pregnant out of wedlock; other skeptics think she was unfaithful to Joseph. If these scandals had happened, Christianity itself would be a lie because: (1) if Jesus were not born of a woman, He could not have identified with our sins fully; and (2) if God were not His biological father, He could not have redeemed us.
But the virgin birth did happen and is the most glorious revelation of the nativity. It is also a bedrock truth of the Christian faith — a truth we cannot question. Bible teacher R.T. Kendall put it this way: "The virgin birth of Christ shows that salvation can never come through human effort." God performed this science-defying miracle without our help. All we can do is praise Him for the fact that Jesus came from heaven, put on human flesh and entered this sinful world as both God and man so He could redeem us.
When we read about the Christmas miracle, our only response is to stand in awe. As you prepare for this holiday season, I pray you and your family will be overshadowed by the glorious, shimmering presence of the true Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
J. Lee Grady was editor of Charisma for 11 years before he launched into full-time ministry in 2010. Today he directs The Mordecai Project, a Christian charitable organization that is taking the healing of Jesus to women and girls who suffer abuse and cultural oppression. Author of several books including 10 Lies the Church Tells Women, he has just released his newest book, Set My Heart on Fire, from Charisma House. You can follow him on Twitter at @LeeGrady or go to his website, themordecaiproject.org.
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