Summary: In every circumstance of life, God is with us.
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THE PROMISE FULFILLED
One of the best Christmas traditions is going home for Christmas. Naturally, one of our favorite Christmas songs is “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.”
I’ll be home for Christmas
You can plan on me
Please have snow and mistletoe
And presents on the tree
But in reality the biblical Christmas story is about leaving home. Luke 2 tells how Mary and Joseph left their home town of Nazareth to travel to Bethlehem where, of course, Jesus was born. And, more significantly, Christmas is the story of how Jesus, God the Son, left his heavenly home to be born as a human baby and become Immanuel—God with us.
“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isa. 7:14).
“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us) (Matt. 1:21-23).
• The promise of Immanuel was given through the prophet Isaiah in around 700 B.C. and was fulfilled by the birth of Jesus.
The prophecy may have been doubly fulfilled. There may have been a near fulfillment (the birth of a son named Immanuel in Isaiah’s day) and a far fulfillment (the birth of Jesus, who was literally God with us.).
• The promise of Immanuel was given during a time of FEAR.
This prophecy was given “in the days of Ahaz” (Isa. 7:1). King Ahaz and the people of Judah were afraid because of a threat from Syria and Ephraim (v. 2). The “sign” the Lord gave the people was meant to give them hope and to encourage them to trust him. The prophecy went on to say that when the child was old enough to choose between right and wrong, the threat from Syria and Ephraim would be gone (v. 16). Instead, Ahaz put his trust in Assyria, which eventually led to Judah’s loss of sovereignty.
BORN OF A VIRGIN
And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God” (Luke 1:34-35).
“Although some claim that the word translated ‘virgin’ (Hb. ‘almah) refers generally to a ‘young woman,’ it actually refers specifically to a ‘maiden’—that is, to a young woman who is unmarried and sexually chaste, and thus has virginity as one of her characteristics (see Gen. 24:16, 43; Ex. 2:8, ‘girl’). Thus when the Septuagint translators, 200 years before the birth of Christ, rendered ‘almah here with Greek parthenos (a specific term for ‘virgin’) they rightly perceived the meaning of the Hebrew term; and when Matthew applied this prophecy to the virgin birth of Christ (see Matt. 1:23), it was in accord with this well-established understanding of parthenos (‘virgin’) as used in the Septuagint and in other Greek writers” (ESV Study Bible, p. 1254).
What does Scripture tell us about the virgin birth?
• Jesus was conceived in the WOMB of his mother Mary.
Some theologians prefer the term virgin conception, rather than virgin birth. But we probably don’t need a new term because Mary was still a virgin when Jesus was born. Matthew 1:21 states that Joseph “knew her not until she had given birth to a son.”
In Scripture, Jesus is called the “last Adam” (1 Cor. 15:45). Adam was made from dust (Gen. 2:7). He was not made ex nihilo (“out of nothing”), and neither was the baby Jesus. It could be said that Christ’s humanness was made ex Maria (“out of Mary”). Jesus was “the fruit of [Mary’s] womb” (Luke 1:42). And he developed within his mother’s womb like every other human child.
• Jesus was conceived by a MIRACLE of the Holy Spirit.
While the birth of Jesus was natural, His conception was not. The angel told Joseph, “That which is conceived in [Mary] is from the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 1:20). Donald MacLeod writes, “The virgin birth is posted on guard at the door of the mystery of Christmas; and none of us must think of hurrying past it. It stands on the threshold of the NT, blatantly supernatural, defying our rationalism, informing us that all that follows belongs to the same order as itself and that if we find it offensive there is no point in proceeding further” (The Person of Christ, p. 37).