Scripture: Luke 1:5-55; Isaiah 7:14 and 9:2-7; Romans 12:1-2
In his chapter he encourages his readers to move beyond the questions in modern minds as to the possibility of an elderly pregnancy, like Elizabeth’s, or an immaculate conception, like Mary’s and ask what these events might mean to our own walks of faith.
The facts of these events, truly, cannot be denied as the historical biographical evidence is solid. There is more evidence for the virgin birth and resurrection of Jesus, than for the fact that President Lincoln was shot in Ford Theater in 1865. It’s solid historical fact. We can still struggle with it, be that as it may. And so as to meaning, even the people of John’s time and Jesus’ wondered what the events of those births might mean.
McLaren says the virgin birth was not as much about bypassing sex “as about subverting violence.” Truly, this child, Jesus, through Mary did come to subvert, to overthrow, to bring a shift into humanity that would change it forever.
He was the new beginning of humanity. The 2nd Adam. A new starting place. Even when Matthew pulls forward Isaiah’s prophecy, which was first fulfilled in Isaiah’s time, for it was delivered to King Ahaz, the unfaithful king, that was not to prove the virginity of Mary. That virginity was already proven for Matthew declared it more than once. No, it was to show the kind of shift in power that would take place.
In Isaiah’s time, that shift meant that by the time the promised child was 3-4 years old, the current powerful kings would be overthrown, and by the time he turned 10, the threat would be removed completely. This occurred exactly as predicted (see Isaiah 7, especially vs. 13-17; and 2 Kings 17). When an actual “virgin” was pregnant, not just a “young woman” as the original Hebrew could be translated, the evangelists recognized this prophecy of Isaiah applied again. And then this child, Jesus, again would be overthrowing the power of Rome, and a greater power, the power of the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph 2:1-3) that of Satan, as he came to “destroy the devil’s works” (1 John 3) not in a violent overthrow, but as with a kingdom that grew because of God.
The prophet Daniel described this overthrow: “In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever. This is the meaning of the rock cut out of a mountain, but not by human hands -- a rock that broke the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver and the gold to pieces” (Daniel 2: 44-46).
McLaren is correct that Mary saw this. Mary, of whom it is said pondered God’s words in her heart, was on the lookout for the fulfillment of what God was doing in the world. She was not just a pawn, but was a leader, a mighty woman, even as a young teen, who saw God moving to change the world. She was one who dared to believe in the God who could do the impossible, and who could use her, an unlikely vessel for this purpose.
Indeed, as God used this young woman to birth life and hope and the impossible through her, so God yet desires to use you and me to do the same, to bring Jesus to others. This is the great gift of this chapter -- a God who enters people to live through them, a God who frees us from what binds us to free us into what God has for us to do -- this is the God we serve.
McLaren reminds us of all this in his brief chapter inviting us to grab ahold of hope and the God of the impossible for our lives as well, not to just meet some need in us, but to accomplish that impossible plan through us.
I’m currently reading the book Thirst by Scott Harrison, the unlikely founder of the best known and easily most successful nonprofit ever seen. Founded when Scott was 30, in 2006, this vision to change lives by providing water has so far impacted 8.4 million people. Talk about impossible things made possible by God, and you see it in this man and his life and mission. He’s a remarkably ordinary guy who after wasting 10 years of his life doing everything he ought not to be doing, by his own account, running from God and life, Scott turned around and dedicated a tithe of those years, one full year, back to see what God might do. In that year, that turned into two, God changed Scott’s heart and the result was the work for which Scott was created-- Charity:water. 8.4 million people are saying thank you. What plans does God have to work through you?