First Printed in HAVEN NEWS Christmas 2016
“We believe in the one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not made, of one Being with the Father. Through Him all things were made. For us men and our salvation he came down from heaven. By the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate of the virgin Mary, and was made man.” (taken from the Creed—a very old statement of Christian faith.)
For Almighty God to become a human being a miracle was required, and that miracle was the Virgin Birth. The Bible tells us that Jesus was not conceived in the ordinary way but in a totally supernatural way by the power of the Holy Spirit. Mary was his mother and God was his Father.
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. And then we read that an angel appeared to Joseph and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “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 1:18-23)
So Jesus was not just a very special man. Jesus is the man who is God. Fully human and also fully divine. The 200% man – 100% man and also 100% God. Immanuel – God with us. Many people have thought that because Jesus was God he was somehow different from us, special, different from ordinary human beings. Many people think that Jesus didn’t really face the same problems we face – that life was all somehow easier for the Son of God. But that was not the case.
JESUS WAS COMPLETELY HUMAN
One of the earliest heresies the church had to battle with was the false idea that Jesus wasn’t really a man. That he was like the mythical Greek gods were believed to do, just pretending to be human. A human being in outward appearance only, but not real human flesh like you and me. But the truth is that Jesus was just as human as any of us. He got tired. He got hungry. He had friends, and when his friend Lazarus died we read that “Jesus wept” and he was deeply moved and troubled. (John 11:35, 33). Jesus felt all the intense emotions we all feel of joy and sadness, sorrow and grief. Jesus faced all the temptations we face. The pull of selfishness. The pangs of greed and lust and bitterness and self-pity. He faced them all. The only difference is that we give in to temptations. We dwell on them and let them lead us into sin. But Jesus never did.
The reality is that most people don’t have any problem at all with Jesus’s humanity. It is his divinity they can’t take on board. People recognise that Jesus was human – but that is all he was. On the contrary, the Bible makes it totally clear that Jesus was also the Son of God.
JESUS WAS COMPLETELY GOD
Jesus was not just a very good man, not just a great teacher. Jesus was not even a good man who at his death was promoted to being a god, as the Romans wrongly believed happened to their emperors. Jesus always had been, always was, always is and always will be completely God. John’s Gospel refers to Jesus as “The Word.”
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. (John 1:1-4)
The person of the Word, God the Son, had always existed, even before time began. And it was that person who was born to the virgin Mary in Bethlehem.
The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
The Creator enters His creation. The author enters into his own play – knowing that he will be murdered before he has the opportunity to write the script for the final act. The greatness of God was not cast off. The slightness of human nature was put on. The Word remained completely God with no lessening of His divine nature. Yet He also took on everything that belongs to our humanity to become Jesus of Nazareth. There were not two separate persons – God and man. It wasn’t the case that God the Word was living inside Jesus the man, like Superman hiding disguised as mild mannered reporter Clark Kent. The Son of God actually BECAME Jesus of Nazareth.
In these last days (God) has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.
So the Bible tells us that the Creator and Sustainer of the whole universe was born as the baby in the manger, the word without a word.
(Jesus Christ) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:15-16)
For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form. (Colossians 2:9)
Everything that God is: almighty; all-knowing; eternal; holy; righteous; all-loving. The fullness of God was there in that tiny baby laid in a manger. That was God’s cosmic masterplan – that Jesus would be the Saviour, God becoming a human being to bring men and women like us back to God. The road runs from Bethlehem straight and stony, steep and long, through 33 years to death on a cross. That was Jesus’s mission. Immanuel, filled with all the fullness of God, came to share that fullness with sinful human beings in a fallen broken world. Only the Creator could repair His creation. Salvation was only possible by the miracle of the Incarnation. Christ became what we are, so that we might share what He is. He shared our humanity so that we might even share His divinity. The Word of God became a human being so that we might learn from one of our own kind what it is to be God. That is the mystery of Christmas.
But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. (Luke 1:30-32)
Mary’s baby, Jesus, was the Son of the most High. For God to become a human being would be IMPOSSIBLE. So it took a very special miracle – the Virgin Birth. Jesus Himself was unique. So we should expect his birth to be unique as well – in fact we would be very surprised if His birth was NOT very special!
We cannot understand the virgin birth. None of us this side of heaven will ever understand how Almighty God could possibly become man in Jesus Christ. It is a mystery! But we believe the Bible accounts that it happened that way. It is not the case that Christians believe that Jesus is God because of the virgin birth. It doesn’t work that way round. A person comes to believe that Jesus is God first. We believe Jesus is God because of his amazing teaching and wonderful miracles and above all because of his glorious resurrection from the dead. But then, because we believe Jesus is God, we believe in the Virgin Birth, because the Bible tells us that is the way that God chose to become a human being. “For us men and for our salvation he came down from heaven. By the power of the Holy Spirit He became incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and was made man.”
So how do we respond to this man who is God? In these days more people than ever say the same as those cold hearted inn-keepers, “No room here!” We would do better to follow the example of the wise men. When they saw the baby Jesus with his mother Mary, they bowed down and worshipped Him. We should do the same. Napoleon Bonaparte once said, “If Socrates came into the room, we would rise and do Him honour. But if Jesus Christ came into the room we should fall down on our knees and worship Him.” Indeed we should.
O come let us adore Him. O come let us adore Him.
O come let us adore Him – Christ the Lord.