I’m always puzzled by the fact that, for some people, the virgin birth is a particular stumbling block to belief in Jesus. After all, if an omnipotent God does exist, then He stands outside and above the natural processes He created. It’s quite plausible that such a God, from time to time in human history, would want to stamp His authority on an event by authoring it directly and supernaturally. And if such a God wanted to introduce His Son into the world, and wanted his antecedents to be known, it’s not only plausible but quite likely that the incarnation would occur in a way that made clear the Son had no earthly father.
Jesus was born at one of the crossroads of one of the greatest empires in history. Thirty years thereafter he began his ministry, and for the next three years most of what He did was done in public view. He performed multiple miracles, always with witnesses and often before large crowds, including the authorities of the day, who hated him and had every reason to expose him as a fraud if they could have. Jesus healed the sick, made the lame walk and the blind see, raised a man from the dead, multiplied five loaves of bread and two fishes into food for thousands, and calmed a storm at sea with a simple command – and those are just a few the miracles we know about.
The Apostle John, who lived with Jesus every day for those three years, wrote a book in his old age about the man whom he described as “the Word (who) became flesh.” At the end of that book, which recounted many of the miracles Jesus performed, John wrote:
“Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.”
I wasn’t raised in any faith. My father was Jewish, my mother was a Christian, and neither of them practiced their religion. When I was a young man, I began searching, fitfully, for the truth. I was attracted to Christianity because it is, more than anything else, an assertion of historical truth centered on the life of one man.
Christianity is a faith, but it’s a faith founded on fact, if it has any foundation at all.
I don’t judge anyone who chooses not to accept those facts. But the hardest thing to believe about Jesus is surely not how he was born. It’s how, and why, he died: at the end of a long road of service and deprivation, on top of a hill outside Jerusalem, after a sham trial, having been scourged and then nailed to a cross between two thieves, there to endure in a few hours the torture of eternities in Hell – and all by his own choice, so that those who hated him would not have to suffer his fate but could be reconciled to the Father who sent him.
If I can believe that – that the Living God chose to die for his enemies, including me — then it’s not hard at all for me to believe and celebrate his birth, in the town of David, to a virgin, more than 2,000 years ago.