Why the Virgin Birth?

During the Christmas season, we don’t simply celebrate that Christ was born; we also celebrate how He was born. Have you ever considered the significance of this? The manner of Christ’s arrival, divinely conceived and born of a virgin, is a key element of the Christmas story. So, why is this detail so central, and what does it mean for us today? Understanding the manner of Christ’s birth changes the way we celebrate Christmas and draws us into a deeper appreciation of its true meaning.

To get a taste of the importance given to it in Scripture, consider the Gospel of Matthew. Although he only devotes eight verses to Jesus’ birth (1:18-25), Matthew emphasizes His virgin conception seven times and does so with careful literary arrangement (see arrangement below).[1] This shows us Matthew’s focus and intentionality in presenting this detail as a central theme in his account. We find further indication of this by the way he frames the account in his opening words: “This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about.”[2]  Once again, Christmas is not merely a celebration that Jesus was born, it is also a celebration of how He was born. This is because His virgin birth is so theologically rich in what it reveals about His nature and mission. I invite you to reflect with me this Christmas on the significance of Jesus’ virgin birth for us today.

TRULY ONE OF US

In the astonishing reality of Jesus’ virgin birth, we encounter a truth so profound that it goes beyond what we can easily grasp or explain: the Creator of the universe, in an act of unfathomable love, chose to become one of us, “fully human in every way” (Hebrews 2:17). The Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, was born of woman, entering our world as a helpless and vulnerable baby. He experienced the full spectrum of human emotion and condition: He celebrated and grieved; He felt the biting pangs of hunger, the weariness of exhaustion, and the sharp reality of need. He experienced the joy of friendship and the pain of rejection. Isaiah describes Him as “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3 KJV). Jesus’ life, marked by the trials and tribulations common to us all, unfolded in the ordinariness of human experience. From infancy to adulthood, from laughter to tears, He became like us, yet without sin. As the author of Hebrews tells us, “This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same testings we do, yet he did not sin” (Hebrews 4:15 NLT).

During this Christmas season, let the baby in a manger born of woman remind you of the profound intimacy of God’s love. As we read in John’s Gospel, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son” (John 3:16). Motivated by love, He came to live among us, sharing in our joys and sorrows. Jesus entered fully into our humanity, diapers and all, to feel what we feel, to face what we face, and to accomplish for us what we could not. In the vulnerability of a manger, in the simplicity of His life, we find God not as a distant deity or unapproachable king, but as a close, personal companion in our lives. In Him, we find not only a Savior who redeems, but also a Friend who understands, a King who serves, and a Priest who intercedes.

Christmas is a celebration of how God has come to dwell with us in a profound new way. As Matthew 1:23 states, “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God with us’).” That’s the joy of Christmas—the pre-eternal Son of God, in shocking humility, becoming fully human in every way, next to us knee-deep in the life’s messiness, yet without sin, drawing us out of the muck.

NO ORDINARY CHILD

But let us not forget, this child, born in such humble surroundings, was no ordinary child. The miracle of Immanuel, “God with us,” realized through the virgin birth, encapsulates the great mystery of the Incarnation—Jesus was fully man AND fully God. As Paul declares in Colossians 2:9, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.” This Holy One, the Son of God, begotten not made, was announced with celestial awe as the angel said to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).

Imagine what it must have been like that night, standing over the manger, gazing upon this newborn child, and realizing that you are looking into the face of God Himself. Right before you, in the flesh, cooing and crying, is the One who spoke galaxies into existence, the One “who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see” (1 Timothy 6:16). What must it have been like to cradle this baby in your arms and realize you were beholding “the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15), “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being” (Hebrews 1:3)? Christmas is a celebration of how, in Jesus, God’s transcendence has broken into our midst, transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary, the finite into a window to the infinite.

I invite you over this Christmas season to journey back to that humble stable and to feel the awe and the trembling joy that Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds must have felt as they peered into the eyes of their Creator. My prayer for us, as we gaze upon our Savior, is that the “God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ [would make] his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6).

SALVATION REQUIRES SUPERNATURAL INTERVENTION

Jesus’ virgin birth conveys not only the union of His humanity and divinity, but also the continuation and culmination of Old Testament themes that reveal the nature of His mission. One of these pertains to how God, in His infinite wisdom, repeatedly chose barren women, whose bodies were as good as dead, to be the conduit of Israel’s deliverers and the means of fulfilling His promises. God’s repetition of this pattern engrains the central truth: Salvation is not a human construct but a heavenly gift, born not of our own initiative, striving, or strength, but of God’s grace and miraculous intervention. Jesus’ virgin conception, void of all human agency, provides the ultimate fulfillment of this pattern. God is the sole initiator and accomplisher of our salvation.

Consider some of these instances, beginning with Abraham and Sarah. Here, God chose to initiate His plan for a great nation not through the fertile and powerful, but with an elderly couple, weighed down by the heartache of barrenness (Genesis 18:1-15). “Against all hope” (Romans 4:18), with bodies “as good as dead” (Romans 4:19), God miraculously enabled them to bear Isaac as promised (Genesis 21:1-7). Their son Isaac and his wife Rebekah then faced the same situation until God supernaturally allowed them to bear Jacob and Esau (Genesis 25:21-26). Then, Jacob and his wife Rachel faced the same dilemma once more until God allowed them to beget two sons (Genesis 30:22-24; 35:16-18). One of these was Joseph, whom God raised up through the most hopeless of circumstances to save his family from a severe famine that spread across the land (Genesis 37-50; see particularly 50:20-21). When we turn to Israel’s next key figure, Moses, we again find God miraculously intervening to raise up a leader whom God would use to save people, this time through his surprising survival and adoption just after his birth (Exodus 2). The theme continues on with God’s miraculous provision through barren women of Judges, like Sampson (Judges 13), and prophets, like Samuel (1 Samuel 1-2). The accounts of these mothers provide the backdrop for John the Baptist’s Nazirite vow after his miraculous conception (Luke 1:5-25) and the lyrics of Mary’s song when she hears of her virgin conception of Jesus (Luke 1:46-55). Through this repetitive theme, God wants us to see that we as humanity are unable to produce a savior from within ourselves. Salvation is only possible through His miraculous intervention into our hopeless state.

Christmas is a time for us to marvel at “the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not” (Romans 4:17). It’s a season where the miracle of the virgin birth serves as a vivid reminder that our salvation is not a product of our own efforts, but a testament to God’s initiative, power, and grace. Let this Christmas be a time of awe and wonder, as we embrace the beauty of our dependence on a God who delights in lifting the lowly and turning our weaknesses into displays of His magnificent glory.

THE SINLESS SECOND ADAM AND HEAD OF A NEW HUMANITY

Another Old Testament theme that Jesus’ virgin birth highlights is His role as the Second Adam, the second man to enter this world without a sinful nature. Jesus’ divine conception by the Holy Spirit, essential for His sinlessness, also marks His unique origin and purpose. If Jesus had been conceived from the line of Adam and not by the Holy Spirit, He would have been born like you and me: under the reign of sin and death inherited from the first Adam’s fall. However, the virgin birth marked Jesus as a second Adam whose sinlessness would qualify Him to be our atoning sacrifice (see 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:22-24; Hebrews 4:15; 7:26; Romans 5:18-19) and to inaugurate a new humanity (2 Corinthians 5:17).

In the heart of the Christmas season, amid the joy of giving and receiving, Romans 5:12-21 invites us to engage in the greatest exchange of all. In this passage, Paul presents Adam as the corporate head of all humanity and explains how he serves as “a symbol, a representation of Christ, who was yet to come” (v. 14). He describes how the spread of one man’s sin to all humanity (v. 12) prefigured the spread of one man’s righteousness to all who receive it (v. 19). While Adam’s “trespass” brought “condemnation” and “death” to all humanity, which likewise participates in his sin (vv. 12, 16, 18), Christ’s “obedience” and “the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ” not only reverses but even surpasses the effect of Adam’s fall by bringing about “justification” and “eternal life” to all who trust in Him (vv. 15, 16, 17, 18). Christmas is a celebration of how Christ as the second Adam brings about a new humanity, one no longer bound under the tyranny of sin and death or plagued with guilt, but brought under the life-giving reign of grace through Christ’s righteousness (v. 21).

This Christmas, let the gifts exchanged under the tree be a tangible symbol of the life-altering gift offered to us in that humble stable—a gift not wrapped in festive paper, but swaddled in a manger. This newborn, conceived in divine innocence and set apart from the lineage of Adam’s fall, marks the dawn of a new humanity. In Him, we find the opportunity to shed our old selves, marred by sin, and to be clothed in the garments of a new creation. May we step into the new reality He now has for us, one drenched in His grace, propelled by His righteousness, and brimming with eternal life.

As we celebrate this season of giving, let’s hold dear the greatest gift of all: Christ Himself. His obedience, His life, His righteousness are offered to us, inviting us to become part of a humanity defined not by our failings, but by His grace.

CONCLUSION

In this season of wonder and reflection, may the rich truths of Jesus’ virgin birth deepen your delight in His nature and mission. May you feel the tenderness of our Savior, Immanuel, who deeply understands our needs and weaknesses, having Himself fully embraced our humanity. May your heart be flooded with the same awe and trembling joy that filled those on the first Christmas night, as they recognized they were gazing upon God’s glory in the face of Christ. May the miracle of His virgin birth powerfully remind you that salvation isn’t something you can accomplish by yourself; it’s a gift of grace, born out of God’s loving initiative. And may you embrace everything Jesus, the sinless second Adam, has achieved for you, ushering in a new humanity where you are defined not by your failures but by His righteousness and grace. What a reason we have to be merry this Christmas!


[1] These seven points appear to be intentionally arranged in a chiasm (inverse parallelism).

A. “before they came together before they came together, she was found to be pregnant” (v. 18)

B. “pregnant through the Holy Spirit” (v. 18)

C. “Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly” (v. 19 — emphasizing again that the baby was not from Joseph)

C. “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife” (v. 20 — emphasizing that her pregnancy is not from another man)

B. “what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” (v. 20)

A. “The virgin will conceive” (v. 23)
D. “He did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth” (v. 25)

[2] Emphasis added. All quotations are taken from the NIV unless specified. This verse is translated in a variety of ways. I think translations like the NIV, ESV, NLT, CSB do a good job at elucidating the meaning of houtós—”in this way”—as emphasizing “how” Jesus’ birth came about.

Image: Mary by Henry Ossawa Tanner (1900)

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