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I suspect that of all the doctrines of the Christian faith the Virgin birth is likely the one doctrine least thought about.  I suspect that if you are reading this you believe in it but don’t think all that much about its significance to the story about Jesus.  In this short essay I’d like to help us both to understand it better and see its place in the story of God’s plan to redeem the world.  That being said I’d like to make one point about what the scriptures don’t focus on and then several points about they do focus on. 
To start with, it may be more accurate to speak of the virgin conception than the virgin birth.  But more importantly we need to realize that Matthew and Luke, who record the birth narratives, are not trying tell us how the virgin conception took place.  Sometimes in reading a bible passage we can get caught up in asking “how” questions.  For example, in the passage on the temptation in the garden, Moses says the “serpent was more crafty then all the other animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman …” In this passage the author’s main purpose isn’t to answer how Satan approached Eve, but rather the significance of the event.  I think the same is true in the story of the virgin conception.  Matthew and Luke aren’t attempting to answer the how questions of the physiology behind this miraculous act of God, instead they are addressing both the fact that it happened and because it did what is its theological significance.  Thus, we should ask why questions and what is the significance questions.  
So, when it comes to what is the meaning of this here are several points the authors are making.  First, the virgin conception upholds the long standing truth that God’s deliverance of the world would be through Israel.  Jesus could not have been from any other race or nation since from the choosing of Abraham and God’s promise to him that through you all the families of the earth will be blessed (Genesis 12:3).  This theme is reiterated again and again as the scriptures trace the story through Isaac, Jacob, the sons of Israel, and David.  The Old Testament reveals that God’s plan has always been to redeem the whole world through a redeemed Israel.  As one writer has written, “The infancy story explains God’s mission to bring the sons of Adam into a relationship with himself through the sons of Israel.  That plan is executed, in fact, through one very special son of Israel, the messianic seed of Abraham, a royal son of David, a new son of Adam, the son of Mary, who is in fact the beloved and begotten Son of God.

 Second, the virgin conception stresses the role of the Holy Spirit in the life and ministry of Jesus.  In all of Jesus’ life from birth, ministry, death and resurrection the Spirit was prominent in and throughout all of it.  Jesus is conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit descends upon him at his baptism and is driven into the wilderness to be tempted by the Spirit.  Jesus does his work in teaching and miracles by the Spirit so that it demonstrates that the kingdom of God has arrived.  Hebrews says Jesus offered himself to God through the eternal Spirit (Hebrews 9:14). 
Third, the virgin conception further clarifies Jesus’ identity as the eternal Son of God made human flesh.  The virgin conception and birth make abundantly clear the truth that Jesus is both God and man.  He was not just a holy man or merely divinity “appearing” to be man.  Jesus had was real flesh and blood as we are, but nevertheless the unique Son of God and thus fully God. This binds together Immanuel, God with us and the son of David themes that the Old Testament spoke of.  While the incarnation is one of the most profound mysteries in all of human existence, it is also one of the doctrines that should cause us to fall down in worship since it means that our creator God became one of us that he might redeem us in the flesh.
Fourth, the virgin conception points to the fact that God’s new creation was at last coming into this world and is now a reality.  While God’s promise to deal with sin starts back in Genesis three, the reality is it hit the ground with the virgin conception.  When the creator entered Mary’s womb the new creation was set in motion.  As N.T. Wright has put it, “The virginal conception speaks powerfully of the new creation, something fresh happening within the old world, beyond the reach and dreams of the possibilities we currently know.  And if we believe that the God we’re talking about is the creator of the world, who longs to rescue the world from its corruption and decay, then the act of real new creation, anticipating in fact the great moment of Easter itself, might just be what we should expect, however tremblingly, if and when this God decides to act to bring this new creation about.”
Lastly, the birth of Jesus speaks to and sets in motion God’s great victory over Satan.  At every turn Satan has opposed the Lord God.  The birth of Jesus marks the beginning of the end of evil, sin, pain and death.  And he knows it.  Praise God he is forever defeated!  Jesus, born of the virgin, has triumphed.