Birth of Jesus Foretold
26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”
35 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. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
The birth of Jesus Christ was the first evidence that He is unlike any other person who has ever lived.
This is how it came about: Mary was a young woman preparing for marriage to a man named Joseph. God spoke to her, just as He had spoken to Abraham, Moses, and the prophets in the past, only this time He spoke through the angel Gabriel:
Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. (Luke 1:30–31)
Since Mary was a virgin, she could not see how she could possibly have a child. “How will this be?” she asked (1:34). The angel’s answer takes us to the heart of the greatest and most wonderful mystery in the Bible.
The Holy Spirit will come on 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)
Mary’s child was born as the result of a direct initiative of God. Joseph made no contribution whatsoever. He was an outsider, a passive observer to the whole miraculous event. This is important because the Bible contains other stories of miraculous births. Abraham and Sarah had longed for a child, and Isaac’s birth was a miracle because they were both well past the age of conceiving children. Isaac was born through a special intervention from God, but his birth still came through the union of a father and a mother.
But Mary was a virgin. The life in her womb came to be there through a creative miracle of God. God did not wait for a deliverer to arise from the human race. He came to the human race. God became a man, taking flesh from Mary.
God’s Incredible Journey
Your life began at the moment you were conceived in your mother’s womb. Before that moment you did not exist, and without that you would not have been! But with Jesus, it is different. His life did not begin in Mary’s womb. Before He was born in the stable, He shared the life of God in heaven (John 1:1).
The angel announced to Mary that her child would be “the Son of the Most High” and “the Son of God” (Luke 1:32, 35). In a separate appearance to Joseph, He was announced as “Immanuel (which means ‘God with us’)” (Matthew 1:23). God took human flesh and came to us, entering history as a baby born in a stable and laid in a manger.
We will never be able to understand how God could become a man, but the central claim of the New Testament is that He did. This miracle is an unfathomable mystery, but it makes sense of everything else that the Bible tells us about Jesus. If God became a man in Jesus, then His claims, His miracles, and His resurrection should bring no surprise. Everything else in the New Testament revolves around this one miracle.
Being fully God and fully man, Jesus Christ is uniquely qualified to do everything necessary to reconcile sinners to God. Only God can reconcile us to Himself, and He did it by becoming man in order to bear our sins.
Jesus is the prophet who revealed all that we need to know about God. Jesus is the priest who offered Himself as the sacrifice for our sins. Jesus is the king who will lead His people into the promised blessing of God.
He Is Holy
Jesus Christ was like us in every respect except one. He is holy. This means that He did not at any time commit a single sin. But it means more than that. He was holy in His thoughts, in His intentions, and in His character. His nature was holy. He was not drawn to sin, and He had no inner propensity to sin. There has never been anybody else in human history about whom this could be said.
The holiness of Jesus flows from the fact that He is God. The angel said to Mary, “The holy one to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:35). Jesus Christ is truly God. Therefore He is holy.
Jesus was also a man. But it is important to remember that being human is not the same as being sinful. Adam and Eve were holy human beings in the Garden of Eden. After their fall, human nature became so bound up with sin that it is difficult for us to imagine a human being who is not subject to sin and death.
But Jesus is the pioneer of a new humanity, and His holiness opens up a whole new world of hope for us: it is possible for a man or a woman to live for the glory of God and to triumph over sin, death, and hell.
A View from the First Mountain
The birth of the Lord Jesus Christ is the first great mountaintop of His life and ministry. Angels filled the skies when He was born, singing, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14).
Jewish shepherds came to see Him in the manger. And later, wise men came from the east with gifts for the newborn king. Jew and Gentile, rich and poor came to worship Jesus.
Dark and evil forces were also stirred up. King Herod was so troubled by talk of a new king that he ordered the slaughter of all the infant boys in the vicinity of Bethlehem, where Jesus had been born.
God had warned Joseph about this in a dream, and he had already moved the family to safety in Egypt. But it was the beginning of a conflict that would resume thirty years later in the desert.
- What does the New Testament tell us about the birth of Jesus? Why do you believe in the virgin birth, and if not, why not?