Explaining the Virgin Birth to your children…to yourself

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As the Christmas season begins again, our children are likely to read or hear Mary’s response to Gabriel in Luke 1.34 “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” There is that moment where you are hoping that in the mind of your 6-year-old daughter her innocence still outweighs her inquisitiveness. Her eyes gloss over. Something is processing in that young mind.
Then it happens. “Mommy, what’s a virgin?” Here we go. How do I explain the birds and bees to her? Will she understand? Can’t I just tell her that they weren’t married, yet? Don’t take too long to answer. Don’t let her see you panic. This kids smells when mommy doesn’t know. Ahhhhh, what do I say? We will just move on in the story. Gabriel, help me out here bud!
You read verse 36 hurriedly, make it to “For nothing will be impossible with God”, and hold your breath. You wonder if you have really honored God’s Word by avoiding your little one’s question. Later as you wait at a stop light, you begin to wonder, “Why is the impossible so possible with God?” Your mind wanders down one path and trods through another until you find yourself needing to grab your phone to Google the significance of the Virgin Birth.
One of the most helpful theological tools that one can use is called a Systematic Theology. These are large volumes that handle all of the possible texts in the Bible on any specific topic. When a topic like the Virgin Birth is mentioned in Isaiah, Matthew, Luke, Galatians, a Systematic Theology studies that topic and provides helpful insight to understanding how those passages teach about God.
Using Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology [p529-532], he sees three areas where there is theological importance of the Virgin Birth. The first of these is that the Virgin Birth shows that salvation must ultimately come from God. This was not something done through human efforts, neither by an earthly father, nor by an earthly mother. Mary had no initiative in the process. Salvation comes only through the supernatural work of God. Remember Galatians 4.4-5, “God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”
The second area of theological importance of the Virgin Birth is that it made possible the uniting of full deity and full humanity in one person. Grudem explains that if God had Jesus come as a full grown adult from Heaven, then it would be hard to understand Jesus’ full humanity. Likewise, if Jesus had two earthly parents and was conceived just like us, it would be difficult to perceive Jesus’ full deity. God chose a combination of human and divine influence in the birth of Jesus, to show both facets of His complete being.
This brings us to the third area of theological importance—that the Virgin Birth makes possible Christ’s true humanity without inherited sin. Jesus did not descend from Adam in exactly the same way as the rest of us have come from Adam. Those from Adam’s lineage have a legal guilt and moral corruption built into their nature. That is to say, we are sinners by birth and sinners by choice. Take note of Luke 1.35, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you, therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.” Due to the Spirit bringing the conception, the child is holy. Jesus was fully human and at the same time did not share the inherited sin from Adam. [Before you ask if this made Jesus fully human, ask yourself if Adam was fully human before the Fall.]
Hopefully this resolves some of your thoughts on the issue. Perhaps it provokes a desire to more study on the issue. I would be glad to give you more information and resources. Yet, you are still going to have to go home and speak to that little girl again this Christmas season. We should probably discuss that a little more.
Let’s rewind to “Mommy, what’s a virgin?” How can we fairly answer this question without mishandling the truth of Scripture? Allow me to suggest a path for discussion. As the father of a little 6-year-old that has become a professional at asking daddy questions, I try to think about what surprise logic she will bring to me next. With this specific question, I think a fair response to a child in her age range is that a virgin for the sake of this story’s context is someone that has not yet put herself in a situation to become pregnant.
As she gets older, this will elicit another question, “What is a situation where someone can become pregnant?” En garde! My response would be that for girls in Mary’s time, this would usually mean they were married. As your children get older, they are going to pay attention to your use of the word “usually”, and call you on it. When their rhetoric comes to this level, it is probably time to discuss more details of virginity and pregnancy. Parents, don’t be afraid of this. Embrace that you are the one that teaches your children about sex and sexuality in a safe environment. Be grateful that you will be their primary resource, rather than their peers or people that you should not entrust with this responsibility. Worship the Lord with greater depth as you convey why the impossible is possible with God.
-Associate Pastor Daustin