Rev. Harrison Goodman
The virgin birth has been a joke since God first told us about it. The Lord foretold it to Ahaz, a king so evil he could legitimately tell the average comic book super-villain to get on his level. When he heard it, he just rolled his eyes. "Surely, I will not put the Lord to the test. I need no signs from you."
It's been the go-to one-liner ever since. If you ever want to roll your eyes just like Ahaz, just mention something about how Christians are dumb enough to believe in a religion that centers around a girl who got pregnant and lied about how it happened. It's absurd how quick people are to impugn Mary's dignity to preserve their own. They call her a liar and a slut so they can hide from guilt and keep doing what they do. That way they can tell themselves that there's no God to judge them for their sins, and no reason to feel guilty. They'll tell you that folks can still give gifts on Christmas. We can still spend time together. There better still be cookies, but they know better than to believe the virgin birth. "Surely, I will not put the Lord to the test. I need no signs from you."
On the other hand, we believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is our Lord. We know the real reason for the season. But we've heard the same joke told so many times in so many ways that it's enough get under our skin.
That anger at those people who mock our beliefs mixes with the shame we hide deep down for secretly questioning the whole thing ourselves more than once. It mixes together into something all too familiar this time of year. This monster, mysteriously fully anger and yet fully shame, lets us feel better about the nice clean line we draw between us and them. It tells us we don't have to empathize with anyone who doesn't believe like us. It says we don't have to care. This thing grows and feeds on us and tells us that anyone who doesn't share our beliefs must be the enemy. Never mind that we wrestle with the same unbelief more often than we want to admit.
So we give this thing a name, The War on Christmas. The War on Christmas wakes up around Halloween and shambles out of its cave looking for arguments about mangers and carols. And now we're so quick battle over the War on Christmas that red cups make headlines whether anyone's actually upset or not.
You can argue over whose fault it is. You can smugly say "Merry Christmas" to anyone audacious enough to wish you happy holidays. You can paint anyone who doesn't believe like you believe into a corner with Ahaz and Hitler and Dr. Doom, and then write them off as less than you. But you should know God doesn't. He has a different name for The War on Christmas. He just calls it sin. Then He reminds us what He does with sin. He forgives it. He reminds us that the virgin birth was for sinners.
The virgin birth was a sign for Ahaz. The Lord said to Ahaz, that evil king who probably would have liked the Starbucks cup with no snowflakes, "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14)." Immanuel means God with us. This God promised Ahaz—an evil, sinful, monster of a human being—that He would love him and make His home with him. He would even be born Ahaz's line and lineage.
Immanuel means God empathizes with sinners, even when sinners have a hard time with empathy. We don't want to see our enemy as like us. We don't want to feel as they feel. We don't want to be the same kind of human they are. But all of this is addressed by God who does empathize, who comes down from heaven to feel what we feel, to be the same kind of human we are. He is fully God, yet becomes fully man to know the weight of our War on Christmas, the anger, the fear, the shame, and to call it by its real name. Sin. Then He does something about it. This Immanuel was called Jesus, who would save His people from their sins.
So Jesus took the War on Christmas, and every other sin we have fancy names for, all the way to the cross and paid for them. It wasn't with gold or silver but with His holy, precious blood and His innocent suffering and death, that we sinners would be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity.
All of this language comes to a head on Christmas morning, for to us a child is born, to us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon His shoulder, and His name shall be called, among other incredible things, the Prince of Peace. Christmas means the Prince of Peace is born. The Prince of Peace, laid in a manger, will usher in His Kingdom of Peace by His death and resurrection.
The Angels who sang of His birth to shepherds in the fields sang "Glory to God in the Highest, and on earth peace among those with whom He is pleased!" Peace. Your sin is died for, and so removed, as far as the east is from the west. This peace is for shepherds, and sinners, and Ahaz, and even you. There is no war on Christmas. Only Peace. Christ atoned for that sin and every other and removed it. You are forgiven. God is pleased with you. We live in His peace, finding forgiveness for our sins and comfort in the fact that God's love is so powerful that it takes on flesh and comes down to bear us sinners unto life everlasting.
As for Mary, blessed is she amongst women. God knew what she would be called, and named her blessed among women for it. She is the butt of the joke that birthed salvation for us sinners. She is the Mother of God, the blessed Virgin, mother of the Prince of Peace. This peace is as real as the God-child she bore and named Jesus. There is no war on Christmas.
Rev. Harrison Goodman serves as pastor at St. Paul Lutheran Church, Carroll, Nebraska.
Created: December 28th, 2015