For today's post I offer an excerpt from my book, Open Before Christmas....
Late one evening a professor sat at his desk working on the next day’s lectures. He shuffled through the papers and mail placed there by his housekeeper. He began to throw them in the wastebasket when one magazine—not even addressed to him but delivered to his office by mistake—caught his attention. It fell open to an article titled: The Needs of the Congo Mission.
The professor began reading it idly, but then he was intrigued by these words: “The need is great here. We have no one to work the northern province of Gabon in the central Congo. And it is my prayer as I write this article that God will lay His hand on one—one on whom, already, the Master’s eyes have been cast—that he or she shall be called to this place to help us.” The professor closed the magazine and wrote in his diary: “My search is over.” He gave himself to go to the Congo.
The professor’s name was Albert Schweitzer. That little article, hidden in a periodical intended for someone else, was placed “by accident” in Schweitzer’s mailbox. “By chance” his housekeeper put the magazine on the professor’s desk. “By happenstance” he noticed the title, which seemed to leap out at him. Dr. Schweitzer became one of the great figures of the twentieth century in a humanitarian work nearly unmatched in human history. Was it chance? No, I don’t think so. I believe it was the providence of God at work.
By the providence of God, you are reading this blog. By the providence of God, you have been born in a certain place, brought up in a certain family, been given certain abilities and certain opportunities. God, in his providence, has chosen you for a special work that only you can do.
God, in his providence, also chose a certain young girl, who lived two thousand years ago, to be the human mother of his Son and our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. It is her story that we read from Luke 1:26-56….
I invite you to focus today on verse 37: “For nothing is impossible with God.” Let us consider the impossible thing that God did in Mary’s life.
First, the impossible thing that God did in Mary was a virgin conception. It is clear from the verses we have just read that what Luke insists happened to Mary is that God conceived in her womb a child without the aid of a human father.
Now, if you are having trouble believing in the virgin conception of Jesus I ask you to consider these factors:
Factor #1: Luke, who is reporting this story, was a medical doctor (Colossians 4:14). Luke certainly understood how babies are conceived. He knew that a virgin conception was a human impossibility. Yet, he reports it as a fact. Why? Because he obviously believed that, in the case of Jesus’ conception, a miracle had taken place.
C. S. Lewis has written, “You will hear people say, ‘The early Christians believed that Christ was the son of a virgin, but we know that this is a scientific impossibility.’ Such people seem to have an idea that belief in miracles arose at a period when men were so ignorant of the cause of nature that they did not perceive a miracle to be contrary to it. A moment’s thought shows this to be nonsense: and the story of the Virgin Birth is a particularly striking example. When St. Joseph discovered that his fiancée was going to have a baby, he not unnaturally decided to repudiate her. Why? Because he knew just as well as any modern gynaecologist that in the ordinary course of nature women do not have babies unless they have lain with men. No doubt the modern gynaecologist knows several things about birth and begetting which St. Joseph did not know. But those things do not concern the main point–that a virgin birth is contrary to the course of nature. And St. Joseph certainly knew that… When St. Joseph finally accepted the view that his fiancée’s pregnancy was due not to unchastity but to a miracle, he accepted the miracle as something contrary to the known order of nature… Belief in miracles, far from depending on an ignorance of the laws of nature, is only possible in so far as those laws are known.”[i]
Factor #2: Luke was a painstaking historian. He tells us that he had researched his story well (Luke 1:1-4). If Luke did not make up this story (and fabrication seems to me highly unlikely in this case) then the only people Luke could have gotten the story of the virgin birth from were members of Jesus’ family. Furthermore, Mary seems to be the most likely source for the story. The reason the doctrine of the virgin birth does not appear in the letters of the New Testament was, perhaps, that the other New Testament authors were not familiar with the story. You see, the Gospels were written after most, if not all, of the letters were written. Luke and Matthew record the story of the virgin birth, I believe, because they got the story from another source, one that in some way must have gone back to Jesus’ immediate family. I imagine that Mary may not have recognized the importance of the virgin birth for the theology of the church. It was a fact about her son Jesus that she treasured in her own heart, until she was asked about it; then the story came out. At any rate, Luke was a painstaking historian who had done his research and he was a doctor. Personally, I think the only reason he would have reported the story was that he thought it was a historical fact.
Factor #3: the incarnation is a bigger miracle than the virgin birth. God becoming a man is the greatest miracle of all. The virgin birth, as the vehicle for that incarnation, pales as a miracle by comparison to the incarnation. Thus, if you believe in the incarnation then you should have no difficulty believing in the virgin conception of Jesus.
Factor #4: nothing is impossible for the God who created the universe. If there is a God who created the far-flung galaxies of outer space then certainly a virgin conception is not too hard a task for him to accomplish.
C. S. Lewis makes another important point in this regard. He writes, “No woman ever conceived a child, no mare a foal, without Him. But once, and for a special purpose, He dispensed with that long line which is His instrument: once His life-giving finger touched a woman without passing through the ages of interlocked events. Once the great glove of Nature was taken off His hand. His naked hand touched her. There was of course a unique reason for it. That time He was creating not simply a man but the Man who was to be Himself: was creating Man anew: was beginning, at this divine and human point, the New Creation of all things. The whole soiled and weary universe quivered at this direct injection of essential life—direct, uncontaminated, not drained through all the crowded history of Nature.”[ii]
A virgin conception is not too hard a feat for a God who causes babies to be conceived every day. The specifics of how God accomplished the virgin conception of Jesus are not part of the story or the church doctrine about it. However, the fact that Matthew and Luke teach that Jesus was born of a virgin is undisputed.
Now is a great time to order my Advent devotional book for yourself, a friend, or a family member. You may learn more here: Open Before Christmas. The book may also be ordered direct from Amazon by clicking here: Open Before Christmas