A virgin shall have a baby


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Isaiah 7:10—16
Moreover the LORD spake again unto Ahaz, saying,
Ask thee a sign of the LORD thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above.
But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt the LORD.
And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also?
Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.
For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorrest shall be forsaken of both her kings.

Matthew 1:18—25
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost.
Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily.
But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.
Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,
Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife:
And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.
I once saw a piece of macramé that was made from many strands of yarn, as is the nature of macramé. It was woven so that it had two ends and at each end all of the strands were tied in together.
The Bible is like that. At the beginning there is the book of Genesis and at the end there is the New Testament. Genesis sets the stage for what is going to happen and the New Testament explains it all.
In Genesis we are set up with Man’s fall. Adam sinned through disobedience. He was led into disobedience by Eve whose sin was a failure to trust God. Because of the actions of those two people, the human race was expelled from the Eden for which we were created, and it’s been a long, rough patch since then.
God is just and merciful. His justice was expelling Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. For his mercy, we had to wait for the birth of Jesus.
In the story of the birth of Jesus, we see a replay of the story of the Fall but done right on the second try. Let me explain what I mean by that.
The Angel approaches Mary and tells her she is going to have a baby. This is scene that is strongly tied in with the Old Testament and especially with the book of Genesis. Think about Sarah who was so very old when Isaac was finally born. Think about Rachael who begged and pleaded to have a child until she was finally given Joseph and then Benjamin who brought about her death. Think about Hannah who prayed in the Temple to receive a child before Samuel was born.
By way of contrast, Mary was a virgin and babies were nowhere on her radar when she was told by the Angel that one was on the way. She didn’t say no and she didn’t try to wiggle out. Instead her answer was obedience. Mary was the new Eve but, while Eve by giving Adam the forbidden fruit paved the way to Man’s fall, Mary by giving birth to our savior paved the way to Man’s redemption.
Jesus is the New Adam. In the story of the Fall, there were two trees in the Garden. One was the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. This is the tree from which Adam and Eve ate. The other tree was the Tree of Life and as a consequence of eating the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve were barred from eating from the Tree of Life.
Jesus, as he prayed in that other garden, the Garden of Gethsemane, faced the temptation of that other tree, the Cross. Again, the temptation involved obedience to God. Jesus did not want to die the death of the cross, but he chose obedience, so through him we are all given access to the Tree of Life.
This is all pretty heady stuff. And I must confess that when I think about Adam and Eve in the Garden, everything is foggy, everything is concealed. They are naked, but they are hiding behind all these bushed.
When I think about Mary and Joseph and Jesus, however, it all becomes much more concrete to me. I can see the young Mary. She is obedient; she is brave; but she is also scared. Bravery isn’t being fearless. Bravery is doing what you ought to do in spite of your fear.
I can see Joseph. And we have no way of knowing, but, when I imagine Joseph, I see an older man. He learns that Mary is expecting and his heart breaks. He feels betrayed. That manly part of him wants justice for what he initially believes is an infidelity, but the godly part of him says, no, I will just put her away quietly.
Then the angel of the Lord appears to him saying, “Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.”
Through the disobedience of Adam and Eve, Man left harmony with God. Through the obedience of Mary and Jesus, men are given an opportunity to return to harmony with God through a life in Jesus Christ.
This is part of an eternal drama that is played out every day of the year on every part of the planet. Man and Woman have the opportunity to choose whether or not to obey God. And I am not going to lie to you, sometimes it’s not all that clear, but I think that we all have to admit that sometimes we don’t want it to be clear. Sometimes we’d like to hear that Serpent tell us how good we are and how smart we are and how we can just go ahead and do as we please. We don’t like the idea that sometimes there are unpleasant things we must endure to be in harmony with God.
But it is all laid out before in that story of the little pregnant girl hiking off to Bethlehem to give birth to the Son of God who will take away the sins of the world.
Father, grant us the wisdom this season to seek to live lives that are in harmony with your creation. Grant us and our families the blessings of this season and bring us closer to the Way given us by your Son whose birth it marks. We ask this in his Holy name. AMEN.