A Miraculous Birth

Isaiah 7:14

December 24, 2015 | Brian Bill

The website Statistic Brain has tracked each year’s “must-have Christmas gift” for the past few decades.  Here are a few highlights, or lowlights:

  • 1983 – Cabbage Patch Kids
  • 1985 – Pound Puppies
  • 1995 – Beanie Babies (BTW, 79% of all households had at least one of these)
  • 1996 – Tickle Me Elmo
  • 1998 – Furby (I always thought he was a bit creepy)
  • And in 1978, when I was in high school, the must-have Christmas gift was a Darth Vader action figure.  I’m sure Star Wars items are huge this year as well.  BTW, if you want the original Mr. Vader with a double-telescoping lightsaber, be prepared to spend $6-7,000! 

I want to draw our attention to a gift given a long time ago, in a Galilee far, far away (see what I did there?).  While this gift was given more than 20 centuries ago, it was actually predicted 700 years before Jesus was even born.  Listen to Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign.  Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”  

The Gospel According to Isaiah

The Book of Isaiah is filled with predictive prophecies about the birth and the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ.  It’s been called the “fifth gospel” because it contains so much good news. 

Isaiah ministered during a really difficult time.  Terrorists from Assyria were attacking and beheading people.  Fear had gripped everyone and Isaiah dared to believe that something better was coming even though his culture was corrupt and everything around him seemed so dark.  Seems similar to our situation as a society, doesn’t it?

In Isaiah 64:1 we hear him longing for the Lord to somehow come down into his world to make sense out of all the nonsense, to bring peace to all the problems, to dispel the darkness and to extricate evil: “Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down…” 

In chapter 7, an evil king named Ahaz is on the throne.  He had deliberately disobeyed God and as a result his kingdom had come under attack from all quarters.  Isaiah points out in verse 9: “If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all.”  This is a pun in Hebrew that can be translated like this: “If there is no belief, you will find no relief.” That’s still true today.  

In verse 10 he was to ask for a sign that would help him believe.  In verse 12 we see that Ahaz refused to ask for a sign.  This lights Isaiah up in verse 13: “Hear then, O house of David!  Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also?”  

We then come to this remarkable prophetic passage in verse 14: “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign.  Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”  

Have you ever wanted God to give you a sign?  Do you wish that He would somehow let you know that everything will be OK?  

Notice that this sign has been given to each of us.  The word “you” is plural, indicating that it was not just a sign to Ahaz, but a gift for everyone.  The angel said something similar to the shepherds in Luke 2:10: “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”  

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been going to church or how religious you are or whether you even want to be here today.  The message of Christmas is for everyone.

This sign from God has three parts. 

1. An Incomparable Conception. 

The word “Behold” is used to grab our attention, to indicate the importance of what is about to be said.  It could be translated as, “Lo and behold.” What God is about to do is intended to be shocking and startling and suprising.

Next we see the words, “the virgin.”  The definite article means that it’s one specific woman.  Did you see earlier this week that there was a mix-up at the Miss Universe contest?  The host announced the winner but then realized that he had made a mistake.  It became really awkward when the crown was removed from Miss Columbia’s head and then given to Miss Philippines.  

Friends, with God there are never any mix-ups, are there?  God had in mind one teenager, a virgin named Mary, whom He had chosen to become pregnant by the Holy Spirit.  

Note also that the virgin will conceive; it doesn’t say that she will marry and then conceive.  This is no ordinary pregnancy and no ordinary birth.  A virgin will be with child.  This would certainly stand out as a miraculous sign!  

Incidentally, in some medieval works of art, Mary is often found reading Isaiah 7:14 at the moment Gabriel arrives to announce this incomparable conception.  

2. A Baby to Be Born. 

The virgin will not only conceive but she will also “bear a son.”  This shows the humanity of Jesus.  When I was young I can remember playing with the Christmas characters in our family’s nativity set.  I was fascinated with the figurines but was never allowed to touch baby Jesus.  In fact, in our family, He wasn’t put in the manger until Christmas morning.  The baby Jesus was always a big deal to me.  I would wait for His appearance, then get distracted by my presents, and then Jesus was put away with all the other decorations until He made a cameo appearance the following year.

I never fully grasped that the baby born in Bethlehem was also the Christ who died on the cross for my sins.

The first sign is the incomparable conception and the second is the baby born to the virgin.  The third sign speaks of the salvation that is ours because Baby Jesus is the Cross Jesus.

3. A Savior to Save Us. 

Christ came to reverse the curse on us because of Adam’s sin which caused separation between us and God.  

Here then is the mystery of the incarnation and what Christmas is all about: “And shall call his name Immanuel.” Jesus was born a baby but then grew up in order to give up His life for you and for me.  The name “Immanuel” means, “The strong God with us.”  From the point of this miraculous birth on, God would Himself be present among people.  Christ came to reverse the curse on us because of Adam’s sin which caused separation between us and God.  

Through Immanuel, God has restored our relationship with Him.  In the very last verse of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus promises his presence to his followers: “I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Reasons to Believe the Virgin Birth

Because the virgin birth of Jesus Christ is a key doctrine of Christianity and critical to understanding Christmas, here are 5 additional Scripture passages.  

  • Matthew 1:18: “Before they came together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.”  
  • Matthew 1:19 clearly shows that Joseph knew that he could not have been the father: “And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.”
  • Matthew 1:25: “But knew her not until she gave birth to a son.”  
  • Luke 1:27 refers to Mary as a “virgin” twice: “To a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David.  The virgin’s name was Mary.”
  • Luke 1:34 reveals that Mary knew she was a virgin when she asked the angel an obvious question: “How will this be since I am a virgin?” 

As someone has said, “It is extremely difficult to make the terminology of the Virgin Birth refer to something other than the Virgin Birth.”  I would change “extremely difficult” to “impossible.”  Jesus will have two natures: human and divine.  He will experience all that we experience, and He will give us all that we need: salvation.  We see this in the announcement of the angel to Joseph in Matthew 1:21: “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

And so, we must hold these two truths of the Virgin Birth together:

  1. He is fully man because He comes from Mary’s womb. It was necessary for the Savior to be born of a woman, so that He would be of the same nature as those whom He came to save.  
  2. He is fully God because He is conceived by the Holy Spirit. It was just as imperative that He should be holy, sinless, and blameless in order to be the sacrificial lamb.  No mere human is qualified to redeem sinners from their sins.  God’s greatest gift is wrapped in thorns.

Both of these requirements are fulfilled in the person of Jesus.  He is fully man, yet fully God.  He is the God-man; one person possessing two natures.  John 1:14: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  The New Living Translation renders it this way: “So the Word became human and made his home among us.”  One paraphrase puts it like this: “The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood.”

You may be thinking, “Yeah, I guess I believe in the Virgin Birth, but why does it matter?”

Peter Lewis points out that by means of the Virgin Birth, Christ enters the world guiltless of the sin of Adam.  Because He is born of Mary, He is truly human; because He is conceived by the Holy Spirit, He is free from inherited sin handed down from Adam.  Thus He is fully able to stand in our place to take our punishment.  He could pay for our sins precisely because He had no guilt or shame of his own.  2 Corinthians 5:21: “For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”

  • He was just like us . . . and yet, He was nothing like us.
  • He walked among us . . . and yet, He came from God above.
  • He grew up in Nazareth . . . and yet, the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
  • He is our friend . . . and yet, He is our Savior and Lord.
  • Little children love him . . . and yet, He baffles the greatest minds.
  • He was called “son of Mary” . . . and yet, He is the “Son of God”

Do You Believe It?

It’s incedible what we read in Matthew 1:22: “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet.”   Each of the events of the first Christmas came to pass exactly as they were prophesied.  That should give us spiritual goosebumps.  This morning as I was reading the Christmas narrative I was struck by how many times Matthew 2 mentions the fulfillment of prophecy.

2:5“In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet…”

2:15“This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son…’”

2:17“Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah…”

2:23“And He want and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that He may be called a Nazarene.”

Listen now to Matthew 1:23 as Isaiah 7:14 is quoted: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, God with us).”  

This is close to how Isaiah says it.  There’s one key word added when Matthew quotes it.  Listen to the Isaiah account again: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”  And now here’s what Matthew says: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel.”  Anyone catch it?  It’s the word “they” as in “and they shall call his name Immanuel.”  Christmas must become personal.  The “they” is “us” which is ultimately “you.”  Will you call his name Immanuel?  Is God with you?

Last Sunday night about 70 of us went caroling in the neighborhoods around Edgewood.  We divided into four different groups to sing carols about Christ.  We also handed out invites to our services so we hope that some of our neighbors are here today.  I noticed a number of different reactions and responses that correlate to how some of you might be feeling toward Immanuel.

  • Some were just not home.  The message came but no one was there to hear it.  Perhaps you don’t put yourself in a position very often to hear the message.
  • A few were too busy and told us they didn’t have time.  Does that describe you?
  • Someone opened the door a crack but then when he understood what we were doing, quickly shut the door and turned off the light.  Have you shut the door on spiritual matters?
  • A couple people hid in the house and didn’t answer.  Have you been hiding from God?
  • Others opened the door with big smiles on their faces.
  • Some invited the rest of their family to come and hear about Christ.
  • A number were really happy, thanked us, and even applauded.
  • One man came to the door on his hands and knees because he couldn’t walk.  He listened to the songs of Christmas and thanked us for coming.  I was very moved by his posture and the effort it took for him to hear the message of Christmas.

What about you?  Will you open the door to Jesus Christ today or will you slam it shut on the Savior?  Will you run and hide?  Are you ready to come to Him on your knees, bowing before His supremacy, ready to confess that He is Lord and Christ?  You can have Immanuel with you, right now.  

At the cradle we see that God is with us and at the cross we see that God is for us

We could say it like this: At the cradle we see that God is with us and at the cross we see that God is for us.  Let me personalize this.  God is with you and God is for you.

But it’s a crazy thing.  Not everyone is interested in Immanuel.  Kevin DeYoung is spot on when he writes, “Perhaps the most common reason people don’t believe in God is simply this: They don’t want anyone telling them what to do.”

Do you know what the most requested Christmas gift is for the last nine years running?  Gift cards.  I enjoy getting a gift card because someone else paid for it.  All I need to do is pull it out and use it.  I read yesterday that more than $1 billion in gift cards go unredeemed each year.  What a waste!  Listen.  Jesus is giving you a Christmas gift today.  He’s paid the price to redeem you from your sins by shedding His blood on the cross, where He died in your place.  But you must take it and use what He has freely given you.  Please don’t waste it!

Ultimately the virgin birth is a mysterious miracle and so is the new birth.  Ask God right now to do a miracle in you.  Believe in His incomparable conception, that He was born as a baby and that He is the Savior who wants to save you.  I’m reminded of how personal Christmas must become for each of us.  Listen to what the angel said to the shepherds in Luke 2:11: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Do you believe that He was born unto you?  If so, it’s time to repent this day and receive Him as your Immanuel.  Jesus Christ is the ultimate must-have Christmas gift!  Would you pray with me?

“Thank you, Lord Jesus, for coming to earth in such a miraculous way.  With all my heart I believe you are the Son of God who was born of the Virgin Mary and then died on the cross as full payment for my sins and rose from the dead on the third day.  Thank you for bearing my sins and giving me the gift of eternal life.  I turn from how I’ve been living and I want you to tell me what to do.  I come as it were on my hands and knees, bowing before your supremacy.  I now receive the gift of salvation and forgiveness by asking you to come into my life.  I need you to save me.  I want to be born again.  Make me into the person you want me to be.  In the name of Jesus, Immanuel, I ask this.  Amen.”

Do you have any thoughts or questions about this post?