WE BELIEVE IN THE JESUS WHO’S BORN OF A VIRGIN
Prayer: Lord God, heavenly Father, give us Your Holy Spirit so that we give thanks for the gift of Your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ; and so that we love Your Word where You reveal this to us and bring us to believe and trust in Him for our salvation. Increase this faith in us always! Amen.
Dear fellow redeemed in Christ:
The creeds that we say in church aren’t in the Bible in that form, in one spot. But each statement in the Apostles’ or the Nicene Creed is based on Bible verses. So when we say the creed, we are saying what the Bible says.
Today we see that an important part of our creeds – who Jesus is – comes from not just a verse or two, but whole Bible accounts: one in the Old Testament, which is a scene from actual history during the time of Isaiah and the reign of a king named Ahaz; and in the New Testament, a scene more familiar to us: when the virgin Mary is pregnant, Joseph is confused, and an angel visits him with a message about who the Baby is in Mary’s womb.
In the Apostles’ Creed we say: “I believe in Jesus Christ, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary.” In the Nicene Creed we say: “He was incarnate by the Holy Spirit, of the virgin Mary, and was made man.”
We’re saying that we don’t believe in a generic God, or a Jesus whom we imagine and form according to our own ideas. But that we believe in a very specific God, the only one. And a very specific Jesus, the actual one, who “came down from heaven” in real time, in a real way that was unique.
We’re also saying we believe in this Jesus because the Bible tells us so. We believe these things about Jesus because the Bible says these things.
(1) We believe that He was conceived by the Holy Spirit because the angel Gabriel told Joseph, as we heard from Matthew 1, “The child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” and not from another man. Our world also needs to hear, and we do too, that the angel from God said the one in her womb was not a clump of cells or disposable tissue but a He, a life, a child.
(2) We believe that He was born of the virgin Mary because way back, oh, between 750 and 700 B.C. the prophet Isaiah was given this promise to speak: “The Lord Himself will give a sign for all of you. Look! The virgin will conceive and give birth to a Son and name Him Immanuel.” Isaiah said: “the virgin.” This was Mary. We say her name in the creed too. We know and believe that she was that virgin and Jesus is that Promised Son because the Bible says so. The angel’s words made it clear that she conceived and yet still remained a virgin, and that “all this happened to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: ‘Look, the virgin will be with Child,” and that this one to be born, Jesus, “will save His people from their sins.”
When we say we believe in Jesus this is what we’re believing: He’s true Man since He was born of His mother Mary; He gets His humanity from her. But because He’s conceived by the Holy Spirit, by God, He’s still true God. He isn’t born with a sinful nature. He had to be true man to be our Substitute, to share our human flesh, to be under the law, and face all the temptations we do. He had to be true God, without a sinful nature, to remain without sin, in order to be able to do this and redeem us.
As we learn to say in the catechism, which is another kind of creed, He “is true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true Man, born of the virgin Mary.”
This is what makes Jesus the Savior He is. This makes Him your Savior. Only if His mother is a virgin, does He remain true God and also true Man. That’s how God set it up. If you have a Jesus who isn’t conceived and born of a virgin, who isn’t true God and true Man, you don’t have the real Jesus.
Of course, there are many people who don’t believe this. They don’t have this Jesus. 1 John says the one who doesn’t have Him “does not have life.” Because of this we want to reach them with the Gospel, this good news about who Jesus is as their Savior.
People may have intellectual objections to it. They don’t think it’s possible, this miracle of the virgin birth, this miracle of the “incarnation,” the coming-in-the-flesh that the Son of God did. It offends them. It offends them in the area of intelligence and reason.
This is atheism, to have for yourself a world without God, a world without the God who does miracles. And the virgin birth is the chief miracle.
We have an example of atheism in this reading from Isaiah. King Ahaz was an Israelite. But he shows himself to be a crass unbeliever. At this time the kingdom was divided, and Ahaz was king in the Southern Kingdom, Judah, the “house of David” from whose line the Savior would come. Ahaz was facing attack from the Northern Kingdom, Israel, also called Ephraim, along with the nation of Syria, and the prophet Isaiah came to him offering God’s help. But Ahaz was already seeking help from the evil, heathen Assyrian Empire since that was the strongest world power. He was putting his trust in worldly power and human armies. When Isaiah invited him to pray to God, King Ahaz said: “I will not ask.”
The kind of atheism that Ahaz represents is not the intellectual kind, that thinks God isn’t true, or what God represents goes against intelligence. Ahaz represents *practical* atheism. This kind of atheism doesn’t have intellectual objections, as much as it has trust objections. It has a trust problem.
This is the kind of atheism we’re always in danger of having: a practical atheism. We know who the true God is. We say the creed. We agree Jesus is true God and true Man. But we can be guilty of living life without Him, not giving Him His place in our life. This is having an “intellectual” faith only, it’s information you know but you don’t use it. You rely on yourself, not on Him. You seek worldly wisdom, or what your peers say or think is the way to get through problems.. You think what’s in the Bible doesn’t help much, isn’t practical enough. You don’t pray. You agree that everything looks dark and grim. You may feel God has failed you. You have a trust problem.
When this is true, you’re living like Jesus wasn’t born of a virgin, you’re living like He didn’t come down from heaven for you. You’re living in a world without God, without the God who does miracles, as if there isn’t the God who loved the world He made. You live without God in your life.
The good news is: God won’t abandon you to this. Because you actually aren’t living in a world without God, you aren’t where He didn’t come down for your salvation. To think so is to listen to lies, to listen to fears.
But God did intervene. We live in a world where God did in fact become man. Where Jesus was in fact conceived by the Holy Spirit and was in fact born of the virgin Mary. This is the Gospel! He did this for everyone.
It’s funny in Isaiah 7 how there’s this anger from God, through Isaiah, at the response of King Ahaz with his practical atheism. God is so angry that He … gives the promise of the virgin birth to the whole world! He does punish Ahaz and Judah, they have no peace at all through looking to Assyria for help. But I have to educate you on this history, hardly anyone even knows it. But what do you know? That the Promised Son finally came.
He was born of the virgin Mary. God did intervene! He says it’s “a sign for all of you.” For all of you. We know it’s not just all the Israelites. It’s for all people in the world. So you have to know where this sign is, where the fulfillment of it is. It’s a Person! Jesus! You have to know where He is.
So not only did God intervene. God does intervene, in your life, in your world, where you are. He still has this human flesh, even in His ascension. He is still God and Man. He is still “Immanuel,” and Matthew tells everyone what it means so we know: that He is “God With Us.” He intervenes in your life. He won’t stand to be remote or distant from you, even when you go away from Him and stay remote and distant. He comes close to you.
You know where He is. In the Lord’s Supper He comes to you in the same human flesh that was nourished in the womb by Mary, the same body that was held and nursed by Mary. The same body she watched being crucified. He died for all. This is His body that you eat in the Supper. Why? To forgive your sins. His flesh is your life. As you believe the bread is His body and take and eat, His flesh is one with your flesh, His holy body makes you holy and clean from all your sins that you do in your body.
Apart from Him your sins condemn you. But you aren’t apart from Him! He was born for you. He comes to you. He who was given life in Mary’s womb, intervenes in your life, to give you life. Amen!