(Isaiah 7:10-16, Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19, Romans 1:1-7)
18Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. 19Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. 20But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” 24When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, 25but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son; and he named him Jesus.
What an amazing start to an amazing life! Every year for the last 2,000 years we lift up this narrative as we celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior. And every year we hear the same old story of how Mary and Joseph were denied a room in the inn and were forced to give birth in the lowly stable. We hear how shepherds and magi were drawn to that stable by a star in the night sky. But before that all went down there was this amazing start to Jesus’ life. God didn’t come to us as a baby conceived by a husband and wife. God came to us through a relationship that hadn’t even received God’s blessing yet. Mary and Joseph weren’t even married yet! So God come to us as a baby out of wedlock. To further complicate matters, God didn’t come to us as a baby who was conceived like all other babies. God came to us through immaculate conception; through a virgin mother! No other baby, in the history of ALL life in this world, has EVER been conceived through a virgin birth. The essence of a male must unite with the essence of a female in order for new life to come forth. Females simply can’t wish they are pregnant. They need a man, at least his essence, just as a man can’t simply wish they are pregnant. Men and women need each other for the very basic task of creating new life.
But along comes God and turns this necessity upside down. God comes to Mary without ever including Joseph in the process. God breaks apart the very rules that He created! God created the rule that a man needs a woman and a woman needs a man for the purpose of bringing about new life. We didn’t create that rule…that was all God! Like it or not, we need each other, men and women, and God set up the rules of the game of life in this world so that we would never stop needing each other. But God didn’t feel like playing by the very rule He created. God wanted to be set apart from all other babies so He bent the rules a little; He made the impossible possible. Mary conceived a baby without the essence of a man.
Of course, both of these aspects of Jesus’ conception (a virgin conception outside of marriage) put Mary and Joseph in a rather awkward situation. It is such an amazing conception, such an impossible conception, that no reasonable person could be expected to believe it. How God comes to us defies all reason! How God comes to us creates quite a stir, so much so that He sends an angel to provide some sense and reasoning to the situation. The angel somehow convinces Joseph to not react to the situation in the way that most everyone would react. The angel convinces Joseph to react through faith. It is in and through faith that Joseph is able to accept such an amazing event.
So why does God come to us in such an amazing way? Perhaps to show us just how awesome are His ways. Perhaps to accentuate just how special His coming to us was. Perhaps God came to us in a way that would force us to understand it through faith. Logic and reason can’t make sense of a virgin conception outside of marriage. Logic and reason can’t make sense of God. No one is able to fully grasp God! God is beyond all reasoning and understanding. There comes a point in anyone’s relationship with God that you just have to stand on faith. Faith is the bedrock in a relationship with God. Without faith, there is no relationship. God wants us to have faith in our relationships with him. God comes to us as a baby miraculously conceived outside of marriage SO THAT we have to have faith. We have to have faith in order to be in relationship with Jesus and God! It’s that plain and simple! There’s no getting around it! If you want a relationship with God, you must have faith!
Now that might be difficult for many of us. Having faith means being vulnerable. Having faith means being open to new possibilities. Having faith means being uncertain. Make no doubt about it, having faith IS scary business! But it is a rewarding business! There are countless rewards to being in relationship with God. There is strength and courage and assurance and contentment to name but a few of the rewards. It is the best relationship we can hope to have in this world. As we go about our Christmas week, let us enter into a relationship with our God through Christ. Let us enter into the mystery of Christ, the mystery of his conception, so that we might build up our faith. God wants us to have faith in him. God rewards us for faith in him! Let us rejoice in the amazing birth of our Lord and Savior!
In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.