The Spirit of Christmas Present (1)

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Luke 1:26-38 (Virgin birth)

INTRODUCTION: Our message series is called The Spirit of Christmas, not in the sense of the feelings we experience at Christmas, but rather we are talking about the Holy Spirit. What is the Holy Spirit’s role at Christmas? Last week we looked at the Spirit of Christmas Past – the role of the Holy Spirit in the centuries leading up to Christmas. This week we look at the Spirit of Christmas Present. What was the role of the Holy Spirit at the first Christmas itself? And for this we look at the gospel of Luke 1. (Read Luke 1:26-38 and pray.)

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The Christmas story is full of miracles. There is the miracle of the angel’s announcement to Mary. There is the miracle of the angel’s later announcement to Joseph. There is the miracle of the angels appearing to the shepherds in the fields. And there is the miracle of the star in the sky that led the Magi to Bethlehem. But at the very center of all these miracles is the greatest miracle of all. The biggest miracle that is at the very heart of Christmas is the virgin birth of Christ.

Some people scoff at the idea of the virgin birth. They say, “That’s impossible!” Well, that’s kind of the point with miracles, isn’t it? If it was “possible,” it wouldn’t be much of a miracle, would it?

And so at the heart of Christmas we have the amazing miracle of the virgin birth. And this is where the Spirit of Christmas Present comes in. The miracle of the virgin birth was a miracle brought about by the Holy Spirit. Last week we saw that the role of the Holy Spirit in Christmas Past was a prophetic role. No Holy Spirit, no prophecy of Scripture. Well here in the gospel of Luke we learn that the role of the Holy Spirit at the first Christmas was a miraculous role. No Holy Spirit, no virgin birth. And without the virgin birth there would be no Christmas.

I. The miracle of the virgin birth (conception)

So let’s look at the miracle of the virgin birth together. Some people prefer to call this miracle the “virgin conception” because the actual miracle took place not at the birth of Christ but at his conception. But we will call it by its more familiar name, the virgin birth, which encompasses the whole miracle from his conception to his birth on Christmas day.

   A. Mary was an unmarried virgin when she conceived
      – Matthew 1:18; Luke 1:26-27,34

First of all, the Scriptures make it clear that Mary was an unmarried virgin when she conceived. In fact, the gospel writers go out of their way to stress this point. When Matthew introduces the story of Jesus’ birth in his gospel, he begins this way: “This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 1:18) The key phrase there is “before they came together.” Mary and Joseph were not yet married, and they had not engaged in sexual relations when Jesus was conceived.

The gospel of Luke is also careful to point out that Mary was an unmarried virgin when she conceived. We read in Luke 1:26-27: “God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.” (Luke 1:26-27) And then again in verse 34: “‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’” (Luke 1:34) Three times in three verses Luke stresses the fact that Mary was a virgin when she conceived.

   B. Jesus was conceived through the Holy Spirit
      – Matthew 1:18,20; Luke 1:34-35

Of course we are left asking the same question Mary asked: “How will this be?” How does a virgin conceive a child? How can a child be conceived without a human father? And the answer is through the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was conceived through the Holy Spirit.

Once again Matthew and Luke are both in agreement on this. We read in Matthew that Mary “was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:18) and that “what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 1:20) Luke also points to the Holy Spirit. In response to Mary’s question, “How will this be?” the angel responds: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” (Luke 1:35)

You will notice the gospel writers do not go into much detail as to how and when this would all take place. They speak in hushed tones and approach the subject with great reverence and respect. There is a holy mystery that surrounds this miracle as there should be. It is enough for us to know that Mary was an unmarried virgin when she conceived, and that God worked this miracle through the power of the Holy Spirit. The virgin birth or conception is an amazing miracle of God which should draw us to worship God with great reverence and holiness.

II. The significance of the virgin birth

It’s important that we not only look at the facts surrounding the virgin birth but also the significance of it. Why did God work this miracle through the Holy Spirit? Couldn’t Jesus have come to us in some other way? What is the significance of the virgin birth?

Fortunately we do not need to guess at this, because the angel who visited Mary told her the significance of this miracle. Look at Luke 1:35 again. The angel answered: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35) Here the angel called Jesus by two names which teach us the significance of the virgin birth. He is the holy one, and he is the Son of God who was born into our world.

   A. The sinlessness of Jesus – Jesus is the holy one
      – Luke 1:35; Romans 8:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21

First of all, Jesus is the holy one. Although this title can refer to Jesus as Messiah, it also speaks of the sinlessness of Jesus. Every human being born into this world since Adam and Eve has been born with a sinful nature. The first parents passed their sin nature on to their children, and then each generation passed their sinful nature on to the next. A sinful nature simply means that it is in our nature to sin, that every person born into our world chooses sin naturally, that we are born with an inclination to sin. No one has to teach their children how to sin. It comes naturally.

But Jesus was different. Because Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, he was born holy – without a sinful nature. Romans 8:3 speaks of God “sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man.” (Romans 8:3) The apostle Paul chooses his words very carefully in this verse. He does not say “in the likeness of man” because that would rob Jesus of his humanity. He does not say “as a sinful man” because that would make Jesus a sinner. Rather he says “in the likeness of sinful man” because Jesus was a true human being but without a sinful nature.

2 Corinthians 5:21 says: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) Jesus had no sin. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born as the holy one, and then lived a perfect life of obedience to the Father. That is the first significance of the virgin birth: the sinlessness of Jesus. Jesus is the holy one.

   B. The incarnation – Jesus is fully God and fully man
      – Matthew 1:23; Luke 1:35; John 1:1,14

The second significance of the virgin birth is found in the angel’s other designation for Christ in Luke 1:35: “So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35) Jesus is the Son of God and yet he was born of Mary. We call this the incarnation, the fact that Jesus at his birth was fully God and fully man.

This was only possible because Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit. There were really only three options for how Jesus came into the world. He could have had a human mother and father, but then he would not have been God. He could have come into the world with no human parents at all, but then he would not have been human. No, the only way for Jesus to come into our world as fully human and fully God was to have a human mother but God as his Father. And so God worked the miracle of the virgin birth through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Matthew confirms the significance of the incarnation to the virgin birth when he quotes Isaiah saying: “‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’” – which means, ‘God with us.’” (Matthew 1:23) Mary gives birth to a human son who is called Immanuel, which means “God with us.” God was now here on earth with us as a man through the incarnation of Jesus Christ.

The gospel of John also speaks of God coming to be with us through the incarnation. We read in John 1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God … The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” (John 1:1,14) Jesus is the Word who was with God and was God and who became flesh and made his dwelling among us. And all this came about through Holy Spirit. What is the role of the Spirit of Christmas Present? The Holy Spirit worked the miracle of the virgin birth. Mary conceived a child while she was still a virgin, and that child was the sinless Son of God, fully God and fully man.

III. The significance for us

We have seen the significance of the virgin birth for Jesus. But what is the significance for us? Because the Scriptures tell us that Jesus was not simply born into the world, but that he was born for us. “For to us a child is born.” (Isaiah 9:6) So what is the significance of Jesus’ virgin birth for you and for me?

   A. Jesus came to be our Savior
      – 1 Timothy 2:5-6; Hebrews 2:14

First of all, Jesus came to be our Savior. Jesus was born holy, but we are not. We are all born with a sinful nature. And we have all acted on that sinful nature. We have broken God’s laws. We have chosen things that were against God’s will. We have sinned against our God and Creator. All have sinned and fall short of God’s glory, and so we all needed a Savior.

Jesus came to be that Savior by dying on the cross for our sins. But in order for Jesus to die for our sins, two things were necessary. First of all he needed to be sinless himself, and secondly he needed to be fully God and fully man. Isn’t that interesting? Those are the same two things the angel told Mary about her child.

If Jesus had not been sinless, he could not have been our Savior. Only someone without sin could die for the sins of others. If Jesus had sin of his own, he would have had to die for his own sins. But because Jesus was born holy and lived a perfect life, he was qualified to be our Savior.

And if Jesus had not been fully God and fully man, he also could not have been our Savior. We read in Hebrews 2:14: “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death.” (Hebrews 2:14) In other words, Jesus was born to die. He took on human flesh specifically so that he could die on the cross for our sins.

We read in 1 Timothy 2: “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men – the testimony given in its proper time.” (1 Timothy 2:5-6) Only Jesus could serve as the perfect mediator between God and man, because only Jesus was fully God and fully man. Only as man could he die, and only as God could he die for all our sins. And this was only possible through the virgin birth.

What is the significance of the virgin birth for us? First of all, Jesus came to be our Savior.

   B. Nothing is impossible with God
      – Zechariah 4:6; Luke 1:37

But there is a second significance for us that is brought out in the Scriptures, and we find that in the closing words of the angel to Mary in Luke 1:37: “For nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37)

There are six other miraculous births in the Bible. Sarah was barren and 90 years old when she gave birth to Isaac. Rebekah was barren, Rachel was barren, Samson’s mother was barren, Hannah, the mother of Samuel, was barren, and even the mother of John the Baptist was barren. All six of these women were barren, and yet all six miraculously gave birth to sons – notice sons, not daughters – in anticipation of the seventh and greatest miracle birth of all – the virgin birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

And how did God do it? Through the power of the Holy Spirit. As we read in Zechariah 4:6: “‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.” (Zechariah 4:6) If a virgin can conceive a child by the Holy Spirit, then all bets are off. God can truly do anything. Nothing is impossible with God.

CONCLUSION: What is the Holy Spirit’s role at Christmas? We saw last week that as the Spirit of Christmas Past, the Spirit had a prophetic role, preparing us for the coming Messiah. And now we see that as the Spirit of Christmas Present, he also had a miraculous role. The miracle of the virgin birth was made possible through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The virgin birth is the central miracle of Christmas and, along with the resurrection, it is the central miracle in the history of all mankind. It is an amazing miracle, mysterious, holy, and absolutely essential for our salvation. As one person put it: “The hinge of history can be found on a Bethlehem door.” (Canon J. John)

The miracle of the virgin birth is summed up well in the words of the Nicene Creed: “We believe in Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God … who for us men, and for our salvation, came down from heaven; and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man.”

Jesus was born sinless – he is the holy one. Jesus was born incarnate – he is fully God and fully man. Jesus came to be our Savior – he was born to die. Jesus was born of a virgin – nothing is impossible with God.

© Ray Fowler

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