Apostles’ Creed #5
Now that’s certainly a scripture lesson that we seldom hear in April, isn’t it? We usually reserve such lessons for the Season of Advent... as we prepare for the coming of Christmas.
Of course, when we recite the Apostles’ Creed, week in, and week out (as we’ve mentioned a couple of times now), we’re proclaiming the Gospel... we’re declaring the Truth, both to ourselves, and for the benefit of others...
The Creed helps us state precisely and concisely what it is that we actually believe. If we were asked to explain what we believe, as followers of Christ, to a non-believer or anyone who’s curious... and all we could recall at the moment... were the words of the Apostles’ Creed, we’d have enough... because, within the Creed, we have the Gospel.
“I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord. Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost (or Spirit), born of the Virgin Mary...”
I’ve actually had people tell me they have no problem with most of the Creed... but that the whole “virgin birth” thing gives them heartburn. Because... after all... we’re all reasonably intelligent people. None of us are out licking windows or eating Tide pods, or drinking the “kool-aid” of this deceived world - I hope.
And because we’re all reasonably intelligent... we do know where babies come from, don’t we?
When our boys were little (just for fun) we’d make up stories about where they came from... like Matthew came from Wal*Mart... Michael came from Kmart. We told Morgan we found him on Morgan Street in LaGrange - because we were out of department stores!
But then... we adopted our little Chihuahua named Chico from the humane society... and one of the requirements of adoption was a very delicate operation. So as we prepared to take Chico in for his surgery and his overnight stay at the animal hospital, the boys were obviously inquisitive. So we had a very cautious, and delicate talk about the “facts of life” - and that after his surgery, we wouldn’t have to worry about Chico being responsible for puppy support payments!
We certainly know how babies get here... it’s a process, created by God himself, that works quite well, and is itself, a miracle.
And that’s really what we’re talking about here, isn’t it? A miracle? Miracles are by definition, mysteries... we can’t fully explain them... but we know a miracle when we see it or experience it, don’t we? And the miracle of birth is beautiful... it’s literally awesome... especially when it’s honored, and comes about as the result of a loving, committed relationship between husband and wife, as we affirm in our wedding vows.
Of course, this whole Virgin Birth thing - the miraculous conception... is a radical claim. It goes against the laws of nature, and, at least to some degree, logic. It certainly flies in the face of experience... as how many of us have ever met anyone who was born of a virgin?
And because of our experience, and knowledge, and our ability to reason... we tend to downplay the aspects of our faith that we can’t fully explain. I think it’s just a natural human tendency.
Back in the time of Jesus... medical science was drastically different than what we know today. They basically believed back then that the male, the father, held the “seed” of life... and the mother was the incubator... very much because of what they had observed in the earth itself. If you take a seed and plant it in the ground, it grows. They didn’t have a concept of eggs and fertilization, and so-forth and so-on...
So they had less of a problem believing in the possibility (and accepting the probability) of a virgin birth. Besides... the fact of the matter is... they’d been expecting it! It was prophesied by Isaiah... and was part of the Hebrew/Israelite culture and faith, to one day be delivered by a suffering Servant who’d be born of a virgin.
Which... brings us back... to the very beginning of the Creed. We profess those two very simple, yet profound words: “I believe...” We don’t say “I think” - or “I speculate” or “I postulate” or “I theorize” - we say “I believe”...
We believe in God the Father... ALMIGHTY. All-mighty. The Omnipotent, all powerful, God of miracles. The God of no limits. The God who said, “let there be light” and there was light. The God to created the universe... every single star and planet... from absolutely nothing! The God who resurrected Lazarus (who was good and dead - in the tomb for 4 days)... the God who resurrected Jesus after his excruciating execution...
Is there anything too big for God? Is anything too hard... too difficult... for God? (Jeremiah 32:27)
Think about it: does God have the power - the ability - the authority... to intervene in the processes of birth and life?
The Almighty God told Sarah and Abraham they’d become parents in their old age... and Sarah laughed... but it happened. Isaac (the son of Sarah and Abraham) married Rebecca, and again... God intervened, when Rebecca was 90+ years old, and they conceived... twins Essau and Jacob.
God told the prophet Jeremiah, “before I formed you in the womb, I knew you...” which clearly implies that God has a hand in the process of EVERY, single, birth... whether perceived as miraculous or not!
The Almighty God - whom we profess to believe in - is a God of Miracles... the God of the possible! Including the miracle of a transcendent “Holy Other” God entering into the physical world - as the Word became flesh, fully God, and fully human.
That means the whole story of Jesus’ birth - and life - and death - and resurrection - is a miracle! The fact that Jesus is fully God and fully man, is only possible if he is conceived via miracle.
Think about it... If Jesus had been born, just like us... human father, human mother... fully human, and only human... he’d be no different than us. He’d be subject to the same pitfalls... sins... frailty... NO man (no one) can save himself.
But because of the Incarnation: because Christ is both fully God (conceived by the Holy Ghost) and fully human (born of the virgin Mary), he’s able to be our mediator... our deliverer... our redeemer... our Savior.
The Virgin Birth is important - the fact that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit is important - because without the Incarnation - salvation would be impossible. And the events of Palm Sunday... Maundy Thursday, Good Friday... and even Easter Sunday... would all be for nothing. We must receive the Gospel as truth in our own lives... And the Incarnation is an indispensable part of the Gospel Truth.
To dismiss the Virgin Birth is to basically undermine the Incarnation. And to undermine the Incarnation is to destroy the whole promise of the Gospel... that we’re saved - not by what we do, not by what we understand - not by what we merit or earn - but by what has been done for us.
It’s a miracle. It’s a mystery. It’s the Miraculous Truth.
This is the word of God for the people of God...
Thanks be to God. Amen.