The Fourth Sunday in Advent

(Regardless if this day is after December 16, this Sunday takes precedence

over the date it falls on.)

Isaiah 7:10-14; Luke 1:26-56; Matthew 1:18-25

One of the Greatest Mysteries of Our Faith

Reading these two passages of Scripture, the teaching that jumps out at me is the miracle/mystery of the virgin birth.  This doctrine has been with the Church from the beginning, and prophesied by Isaiah more than six hundred years previous.  Yes, I know there are those who would call it a myth that grew up early in the Church’s history, but if this is a myth then why not the resurrection? If so, our faith is in faith – we are dead in our sins and have no hope (1 Corinthians 15:12-19).  Our faith must rest on the word of God, not on what our eyes can see and our minds comprehend.

What is the meaning of the virgin birth?  The virgin birth testifies to an even greater mystery – that the Son of God, who is of the same substance of the Father, who was with the Father in the beginning, who was, is, and ever shall be – who is, in short, God (John 1:1-18) – this One came down and joined himself with (assumed) the humanity made available from Mary’s womb.  In this most marvelous event, all that the prophets had prophesied was set in motion – the promised Messiah was coming, but not on clouds of glory (that is yet to come), but in the form of man, God in the flesh, fully human, fully divine, one person – one with us and one with God.

But why?  What is the purpose of this?  The answer is simple – our salvation.  And how does this act of God save us?  The principle underneath this doctrine is that man has sinned his way out of God’s favor.  Sin really is a big deal.  And it is a big deal because of another principle that underlies this plan of salvation, which is that God is a holy God.  God can no more sweep our sin under the rug than a wife could her husband’s infidelity.  Sin has consequences.  The problem was (and is) that we can’t fix it.  It’s not just that we commit sin, we are born sinners, that is, with a sinful nature.  We can never not sin – not in this life.  We fail God’s law, be it a command about a tree in a garden or the Ten Commandments, we shake our fist at God.  But God so loved us that He decided to do something about this problem Himself – and that was that His Son would assume our nature, live our life without sin (Hebrews 4:15), and then take our place as the sacrificial Lamb on the cross (which is what the Old Testament sacrifices foreshadowed all along), and then rise again in victory over sin and death.  This is the fulfillment of the first prophecy after the fall in Genesis 3:15 – that the seed of the woman would crush the serpent’s head.  And the greater purpose of all of this, even greater than our salvation, is that it redounds to God’s glory, which is the purpose of everything God does.  And it begins with a virgin betrothed to a man; so earthy, so humble – God becomes man.

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