Summary: The central message surrounding Jesus’ birth is that he came to save people from their sins. He did his part, beginning with his birth. Now individuals must do theirs by trusting him as their Savior.
He was born on February 11, 1847, in Milan, Ohio, the seventh and youngest child. As a youngster, he possessed a great curiosity which led him to ask an enormous amount of questions. His mother had once been a schoolteacher, but even she could not answer all his questions. This being the case, he would try to gain his answers with experiments. At the age of seven, he moved with his parents to Michigan. He entered public school and soon irritated his teacher with his many questions. One day he heard the schoolmaster tell the district school inspector he was addled. He ran home and told his mother who in turn went directly to the schoolmaster and told him her son had more sense in his little finger than he had in his whole body. She took him out of school, ending his formal education of only three months. His mother began to teach him, but he soon learned so fast even she could not keep up. He continued his experiments, and out of them came such inventions as a motion-picture device, the telephone transmitter, the stock ticker, the mimeograph machine and the phonograph. This young man with little formal education was Thomas Alva Edison.
In our country, we celebrate special birthdays. Most of us celebrate our own birthdays and those of our family, but there are famous individuals whose birthdays we recognize as national holidays. Other countries do the same. Many of those who achieve world renown start out in humble circumstances. Such was the case with Jesus. December 25 is the day we celebrate his birthday. Jesus too began in humble circumstances but was indeed a king. As evidenced in history, many great people originate with small beginnings.
There are some important things involved in Jesus’ small beginning.
I. THE METHOD
The method of his birth was abnormal. It took place miraculously. Mary was a virgin. In chapter one of Luke's gospel, we read that God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee. He was sent to a virgin named Mary. She was betrothed to a man named Joseph who belonged to the lineage of David.
The angel informs Mary she is very favored. The reason was not because she was special in any way or any better than other young maidens. She was favored because God chose her to bear his son. She was frightened by the news, but the angel instructs her to remain calm. She would bear a son and his name would be Jesus. The angel also told Mary Jesus would be God's Son.
This news perplexed Mary. She asks the angel how this could happen since she was a virgin. She was betrothed to Joseph but not yet married. The betrothal was similar to our engagement but more involved. The woman was considered the legal wife of the man even though they did not actually live together. There was a period of time between the betrothal and the actual marriage ceremony. Though the woman was considered the man's legal wife, no sexual interaction took place between them and none was to take place between the woman and other men.
Matthew tells us Joseph was upset when he discovered Mary’s pregnancy. He had no recourse but to assume she was unfaithful. Being the righteous man he was and not wanting to publicly disgrace her, Joseph decided to divorce her. Before he could do this, an angel appeared to him in a dream and told him not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife. He explained how the child was conceived by the Holy Spirit not another man. Following the explanation, Joseph obeyed.
Mary is also perplexed over how she will get pregnant since she has had no sexual relationship with a man. The angel explains that the Holy Spirit and God’s power will come upon her and cause the pregnancy.
While some have and still do doubt Jesus’ virgin birth, claiming it is not necessary, this teaching serves important purposes. His virgin birth affirms his uniqueness. His followers believed he was different from anybody who had ever lived, and indeed he was. The virgin birth also shows God alone was responsible for Jesus’ birth. His birth could not be attributed to the normal means in which a child is conceived. It also shows Jesus entered the world by the normal birth process but was not conceived in the normal means.
The prediction of his birth through a virgin is the crown of all prophecies. It reveals the mystery of the Christian belief that Jesus was at the same time divine and human. The creative power of God rested on Mary.
Note Mary’s reaction. She believes the Word of God through the angel and submits to God's will for her life. She would undergo suspicion from others. She might suffer shame and reproach for being pregnant before marriage, but she submitted to God’s will.