. Ques. 35. What is the meaning of these words—He was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary?
Ans. That God’s eternal Son, who is, and continueth true and eternal God, took upon him the very nature of man, ,of the flesh and blood of the Virgin May, by the operation of the Holy Ghost; that he might also be the true seed of David, like unto his brethren in all things, sin excepted.
Ques. 36. What profit dost thou receive by Christ’s holy conception and nativity?
Ans. That he is our Mediator; and with His innocence and perfect holiness, covers in the sight of God, my sins, wherein I was conceived and brought forth. Heid. Catechism, Lord’s Day 14.
I believe in Jesus, Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary.
This belongs to the historical events of this present time. On a certain day, almost two thousand years ago, the angel Gabriel came to the lowly home of Mary, who was a virgin, in the city if Nazareth. He spoke to her of the birth of the Savior, Who had been promised throughout the entire old dispensation, and was the one hope of all the sincere believers. Gabriel explained to Mary who this Child would be, and how His marvelous birth would take place. Upon the suggestion of the angel, Mary went to her cousin Elisabeth and stayed with her for three months. Likely it was the inspired greeting of Elisabeth that made Mary aware that the holy conception had already taken place. Upon her return to Nazareth, Joseph, her husband to be, was instructed by the angel in a dream that the prophecy of Isaiah, in chapter seven, the fourteenth verse, was fulfilled in his fiancée, and that he should take her under his care and protection. Under the providence of God the command of Caesar Augustus brought this engaged couple to Bethlehem, the city of David, where Jesus was born in a cattle stall. This is all a part of history, an important part, the unfolding of the counsel of God, a happening that our eyes could see, our ears could hear, and actually so ordinary, that a small child delights to hear the story over and over again.
And yet how marvelous, how wonderful, how defying of all human comprehension is that fact of which our Catechism speaks, and which we confess every Sunday in the words, “I believe in Jesus, …conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary.” Already in the fourth century after Christ the church, after a bitter struggle against the forces of darkness that introduced all kinds of heresy in regard to the virgin birth, was guided by the Holy Spirit to declare, “We, then, following the holy fathers, all with one consent teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man . . . in all things like us, without sin; . . . begotten for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood; . . . to be acknowledged in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation.. . .”
How wondrous are the ways of God, unfathomed and unknown!
“God’s eternal Son took upon Him the very nature of man.” That is the language of our Book of Instruction. It immediately reminds us of the visit of the angel Gabriel to Mary, which is a wonderful commentary on the holy conception and birth of our Savior.
Ordinarily a believing young man and a believing young woman enter into the state of marriage with the very desire and purpose to raise children, even the covenant seed that God may give them. They look forward to that and pray for it. Especially the wife, because of her motherly instincts, desires this very strongly. The husband knows very well that he cannot produce a son without his wife. The wife knows that it is her unique privilege as a woman to bring forth children, yet never without her husband. When the child is born, relatives and friends try to decide whom the child takes after. Actually the newborn child bears resemblances to both parents. The child himself had nothing to say about all this. It did not choose its parents, nor the time and place of its birth. It had nothing to say about its sex, the color of its hair or eyes, or anything else. God determines all that, without so much as consulting anyone.
How different is the birth of Christ! The Triune God is His Father. No wonder that the virgin Mary asked in wonder, “How shall these things be?” That makes the divine answer through the mouth of Gabriel the more significant. The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, bringing about thy pregnancy. The power of the Most High God will overshadow thee during the nine months of thy pregnancy. God in the Son and through the power of the Holy Spirit brought about His own conception. Not a part of God, say, a third, came into the flesh. GOD in all His fulness formed His own body and His own soul. He made Himself a human nature that looked like Mary. He protected that human nature from the depravity of His mother. He brought Himself to birth as Mary’s Child. He is fully God and at the same time fully man, Immanuel, God dwelling among us in our flesh! We see it, we shall fathom it never. We believe!
The more we think about this holy conception and birth with the Holy Scriptures before us, the more we marvel at the mystery of Bethlehem. Scripture says, “Therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.” Our Catechism responds to that by saying, “God’s eternal Son, Who is and continueth true and eternal God, took upon Him the very nature of man, of the flesh and blood of the Virgin Mary.” God came down to us in the person of the Son and became Man. He is the Son of God with a divine and a human nature. He remains the Son of God, as is evident from His preaching, for He spoke with a knowledge and authority that the scribes did not have. This is evident also from His many mighty works, for no man could perform such great works as He did. Peter cried out in amazement, “Lord, depart from me, for I am a sinful man.” As spokesman for the other disciples he learned to confess, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Christ did not lay off any part of His divine nature. Yet at the same time, He is—I say, is, because He still is—fully and completely man, both as to body and soul. Particularly in the Gospel according to John there is a repeated reference to the fact that Jesus addresses God, the Triune God, as His Father. He was born, cried, nestled in His mother’s arms, needed care and protection, needed to be fed and clothed, grew up and developed as any other child. He hungered, thirsted, grew weary, felt pain, also the pain of being reproached of men and not being understood by His disciples. He was like us in all things. There was only one important exception to that; He had no sin. Sin was foreign to Him.
Christ was so much one of us that He could properly call Himself “The Son of Man.” He had a special preference for that name, so that He often referred to Himself by it. This name, Son of Man, so perfectly expressed the fact that He was son of Adam, of our bone and of our flesh. Our blood flowed through His veins. Yet this name bore a special significance for Him, since the prophets had foretold that THE Son of Man would be crowned with glory and honor in the heavens (Psalm 8:4-5; Dan. 7:13-14). He was the Seed of the woman, Who was promised to Abraham as his spiritual Seed, according to the promise of Genesis 17:7, “And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy Seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.” He is also of the royal line of David, as Gabriel told Mary and as the genealogy of Matthew 1points out. He was, therefore, fully qualified to be our Mediator, for He is one of us, like us in all things, only sin excepted.
At the very thought we hide our faces in shame. Jesus Christ is the Holy One that is brought forth, by the wonder of God, from a depraved, corrupt human stock. That is intimated in the first chapter of Matthew, when it mentions the names of only four women: Tamar, Rahab, the wife of Uriah, and Ruth of Moab. The wonder becomes even more amazing when we consider that Christ was born as the Living One out of dead generations. Death had come upon us already at the fall. Both Abraham and Sarah were too old to have children when Isaac was born. The throne of David lay buried in the dust, and the generations of David were like a dead stump, in a dry soil. The Son of God entered into our world as Life from the dead. Consider now also how the devil worked to prevent the birth of our Savior. He killed Abel; he worked havoc in the family of Jacob; he instigated the death of Israel’s male children in Egypt. We could mention the crime of bloody Athaliah and the bitter revenge sought by Haman as but a few more examples of Satan’s determination to wipe out the generations that brought forth the Christ. Finally, there was the desperate attempt of king Herod to kill the Babe at His birth by killing all the infants of Bethlehem. But God always proves Himself to be sovereign Lord over all, using the wicked devices of evil men to carry out His purpose. Our Savior was born according to the promise.
What is the advantage of all this for us?
Our fathers speak of Christ as our Mediator. As Mediator He stands before God in our stead. For our sakes He surrendered Himself to the consuming wrath of hell until the fires had completely burned out. God exalted Him to the highest heavens, where He now serves as our eternal Prophet, our merciful Highpriest, and our glorious King.
He covers with His innocence and perfect obedience in the sight of God all my sins, wherein I was conceived and brought forth. My sins! Surely you take that same confession on your lips with me. Our sins! The guilt of Adam’s sin is our guilt which was passed along to us through the generations from father to son. Adam’s depravity, as the result of his fall, is my depravity. I must acknowledge, even as David did, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” For, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin: and so death passed upon all men,for that (because) all have sinned (Rom. 5:12). Added to that, I increase the measure of my guilt every day, so that my sin-debt with God is become such a huge sum, that I cannot even reckon how large it is.
He brought the perfect sacrifice for our sins in His own body on the cross, so completely as if you and I had personally atoned for every one of our sins, large and small. He merited for us eternal life, as if we ourselves had proved ourselves worthy of all the riches of salvation. Now in heaven Christ intercedes for us as our Highpriest in the sanctuary. As our King He rules over all the affairs of men to carry out the counsel of God for our sakes, and rules over our lives in love to turn everything to our salvation. As our Prophet He sends forth His Spirit into our hearts, Who applies to us the riches of grace revealed in the holy Scriptures. He assures us that, though our sins are as scarlet, He cleanses us and makes us as white as snow. As God sees us, we stand without condemnation, clothed in the perfect righteousness of Christ, worthy to be the heirs of life with Him in His glory.
Christ can do just that, for He is God.
He has the right to do that for us, since He is eternally our representative Head and Mediator before the Father.
He does just that, for He made Himself like unto us, in order to make us like unto Himself in His glory.
I believe in Jesus Christ, conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary!