Why is the virgin birth so important to Christians?
The Bible is full of miraculous births. In fact, without miraculous births, much of the Bible wouldn’t exist. Not only would Christianity not exist because Mary wouldn’t have conceived before marriage, but Israel wouldn’t have existed because Abraham and Sarah wouldn’t have birthed Isaac.
I’ve been reading a book by Ben Myers titled The Apostles Creed: A Guide to the Ancient Catechism. It’s a fairly short, accessible book about the central claims Christians have held onto since the early days of the church. When writing about the virgin birth, Myers points out that the miraculous birth is not merely a “theological eccentricity.” His point is that the virgin birth isn’t just an odd, mysterious event in the Christian story. It is central to the Christian story.
The Virgin Birth points to the central messages of Christianity: man is wholly unable to save himself, and God has brought salvation to his people.
There are several mothers throughout the Bible who were described as barren, or unable to conceive before they gave birth. The first was Sarah, the wife of Abraham. God promised that a great nation would come through his descendants, and all the nations of the world would be blessed through him (a foreshadowing of the Messiah). After a lifetime of infertility, Sarah conceived Isaac in her old age showing that this great nation and Messiah would come through the will of God, not the will of humans. In fact, when Abraham and Sarah tried to bring about God’s promise on their own, they cause a great deal of problems.
And in a very similar way that the birth of Israel, or Isaac, was a miraculous one, the birth of the cornerstone of the church was also a miraculous one.
However, there is a key difference between the two miraculous births. Sarah was barren, but Mary? Mary was a virgin.
It’s significant that the woman God chose to birth the Messiah was a virgin. Abraham and Sarah had Isaac in old age. This is miraculous, no doubt. But Mary was a virgin, so there is no room to say anything other than, “God has done this.” Her pregnancy was not a remote possibility, it was an impossibility.
The Virgin Birth is a reminder that working toward our salvation is an impossibility.
We cannot rush God’s salvation along through our efforts, and we cannot finish the work of God for him. To him alone belongs salvation.
God initiates, sustains, and finishes the salvation of his people.
God didn’t merely light a fuze with the birth of Isaac. He is the sustaining fire awakening and igniting the hearts of his people throughout history until the day when Christ finally sits on his earthly throne, and heaven and earth are united once again. The virgin birth reveals God’s sustaining hand in our salvation.
So, the virgin birth also reminds us that what God began, he will finish.
Before Christ, Israel was living in the time after the the miraculous birth of Isaac and awaiting the next miraculous birth of the Messiah. Today, we live in the time between the miraculous birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus and his second coming. During Advent, we anticipate this second coming by remembering Israel’s yearning for the first. We find hope on Christmas Day when the Messiah is finally born to a virgin, knowing that what he has miraculously initiated and sustained, he will also finish.
“Annunciation” by John Collier (2000)