Summary: At the cradle we see that Jesus is with us. At the cross we see that He is for us.
The Virgin Birth
Rev. Brian Bill
December 24, 2015
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!