Christmas, Part 2: Why a Virgin Birth?

Preface:

Before we continue with the "Christmas leftovers", I want to take a short detour and look at an Islamic flash back that I had a few days ago.

I was listening to a tape concerning the Islamic Jihad, the "Holy War", by Chuck Missler.  He raises an issue that I want to pass along as sort of a flash back to our Islamic series that we began shortly after 911 and finished several weeks ago.

For those of you who were not in class during those weeks, we studied Islam to try to determine if we are in a war against terrorism or against Islam. We identified that you can’t quite separate the two, which is a problem, long term.

After we finish a few more topical studies we may go back and spend another couple of weeks to wrap up the details of that study on Islam as a religion and as a world political power.

Just to remind you, the word Jihad means a war that will last until the final judgment time. That’s how it’s defined in Islam.  It also means the eternal internal struggle between man and his nature and allows for the defense by an individual or group against any challenge to Islam.   And of course we know that there are no rules under Islam.   You can do anything that needs to be done to win.

There's a tendency for us as human beings to believe that our future is controlled by our past.   That is, that what ever happened in history is also what will happen in the future.   It's a linear concept of life.   However, there are certain things that occur during our lives that are nonlinear.   Scientists call these "non-linearities".

One of those was Pearl Harbor.   It was a point in mankind's history that is a nonlinearity.   It's a time after which we will never be the same.  

Shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese Admiral Yamamoto, who was commander of the Japanese fleet that attacked Pearl Harbor, is quoted as saying, “I fear that all we have done is to awake a sleeping giant and filled him with a terrible resolve.”     He realized that the Japanese government had underestimated the reaction of the people of the United States to being attacked. The Japanese government had misread the complacency of the American People as weakness -- a lack of resolve.

I think that is so parallel to what Osama and other Islamic terrorists may now be saying.   They misread the complacency and sinfulness of the American society as weakness.

I think they set back their goal of Islamic world domination, by many years, perhaps destined it to failure.   At least I hope so. Remember, that some Islamic clerics have estimated from the size of the Muslim population in the US and their rate of growth, that by 2020 the US will be an Islamic society under the laws of Islam.

If I go back and wrap up the Study of  “Is it Islam”, I will look at what that society would look like.

I just hope that the changes we saw after 911 can continue longer than the resolve did after Pearle Harbor. Militarily our resolve is still strong, but it has been less than 4 months.   Already the increase in church attendance that spiked after 911 has started to return to pre-911 levels. It is now more politically correct to talk of religion, and mention God, and some schools are even ignoring the Supreme Court and have found ways to include prayer at graduations, but I just hope our resolve is stronger and longer this time.

We as a society are in a protracted battle, which will last even after the military effort is over.

Introduction:

I want to defend myself for doing Christmas leftovers.   First, if you had listened faster, we would not be having Christmas leftovers.

But there is even better justification. We are all familiar with the "Twelve Days of Christmas" and the song about the tradition of giving one gift each day for 12 days.   To understand this, we first have to understand Christian tradition, especially the traditions of the Western Church as contrasted to the Eastern Orthodox Church.   Those of you who have a Catholic background have a head start here.

Advent:

To begin with, Church tradition is to celebrate Christmas on Christmas day, not on Christmas Eve or for the almost 4 weeks of December prior to Christmas.   Everything about the celebrations prior to Christmas were to lead and build up to the celebration of the birth of Jesus on Christmas day. This period preceding Christmas is called Advent, from the Latin advenire, ="to come toward", leading up to Christmas.   It is a period of repentance and preparation.   The hymns are of reflection.   Readings and preaching on the events leading to the birth of Jesus.

The tradition of the Advent wreath started in northern Europe.   It used a wreath with four candles, one to be lit each Sunday leading up to Christmas.   There were usually three white candles and one red one; the red one was lit on the third Sunday, signifying that although we are still in darkness, there is hope.

In America a 5th white candle was added to be lit on Christmas Day, signifying that Jesus had come.   Christmas Eve services were then the occasion to celebrate the event of the next day. In its purest form, it would be at midnight to welcome Jesus into the world. Christmas Day was then celebrated by a Mass, called the Christ Mass which coined our word Christmas.

Then, December 26 is the Feast of Stephen the traditional date of the death of the Stephen, the first martyr of the Church.
December 28, the Feast of the Innocents, commemorates the killing by Herod of the children in Bethlehem as he tried to eliminate the baby Jesus whom he perceived as a threat to his rule.
January 6 is Epiphany, the traditional arrival of the Three Wise Men, twelve days after the birth of Jesus.

So the traditional 12 days of Christmas began with Christmas Day on December 25th and concluded with the arrival of the Wise Men on January 6th.   One of the customs was to open no presents before Christmas, and then open one gift on Christmas, and then one gift on each of the next eleven days. (Just in case you are counting, you do not get a 13th gift on Jan 6th.   The last of the 12 gifts is given on Jan 5th, and then the celebration of The Epiphany is on the 6th.   Traditionally the Christmas Tree went up on the evening of the 24th, Christmas Eve, and came down on Jan 6th.

So I am teaching the Christmas story during the 12 days of Christmas, and hope to finish on Jan 6th, at the end of the Twelve Days of Christmas!

Review:

Now let’s return to the Christmas study that we started two weeks ago.   During that lesson we came to the conclusion that Jesus was probably not born on December 25th, and that he probably wasn’t even born in the year 01 A.D.   We came to a rational conclusion based on both Biblical and secular literature that a reasonable and probable birth date might be Sept. 29, 02 B.C.   We also looked at the background for why we celebrate Christmas on December 25, and found that this date was the date of the pagan holiday of Saturnalia, celebrated by the Romans, originally established and celebrated by the Babylonians.   We also found that it wasn’t until 440 A.D. that the Church adopted December 25th as the celebration for the birth of Christ.

We also looked at the Babylonian pagan myths of Tammuz who is representing the sun god, and how the ritual of Saturnalia came from the myth of Tammuz, who was believed to have died and came back to life the next day.

We saw how the Babylonians burned a Yule Log in their fireplace leading up to the holiday of Saturnalia.   Yule was the Chaldean word for infant, referring to the infant Tammuz.   The Yule Log was then replaced the next morning with a decorated tree to celebrate the resurrection of Tammuz.   It sounds a lot like the tradition of erecting the Christmas tree on Christmas morning, doesn't it?

Today's Lesson: Why a Virgin Birth?

We will now continue with the Christmas leftovers, including other issues that I want us to look at concerning what really happened in Bethlehem over 2000 years ago.

Have you ever asked yourself, "Why did God decide to use a Virgin Birth to bring Jesus into the world?"

But there is more to it than that.   It turns out that if you really study it, God needed to use this tool of the Virgin Birth.   It was not just an arbitrary decision on his part.   God is a God of order.   He is a just God.   He makes the rules, and he plays by the rules.   So let’s look at why he used the Virgin Birth.

The real story of why we celebrate Christmas starts in Genesis 3 with The Messianic Promise.   It starts with Adam and Eve in a perfect paradise with only one rule to obey.   And the Nachash, the shining one, deceived Eve into breaking the only rule that God had given them.   And Adam knowingly fell in line.   He was not deceived.

Then God declares of war on Satan in Genesis 3:15.   God would provide an answer: the promise of a kinsman-redeemer for Adam: the Messiah.

It is interesting to note Satan’s repeated attempts to eradicate the Messianic line, from Eve onwards.   Throughout history, from Cain and Abel and the Flood of Noah, to the slaughter of the infants in Egypt, Satan has attempted to interrupt the royal line, even to the slaughter of the babies in Bethlehem.

As time goes on, and God gets more specific about the coming Messiah.   First he is to be of the Tribe of Judah, and then more specifically, the house of David.   You can actually study the Bible in terms of Satan’s attempt to thwart God's plan of salvation, the arrival of the kinsman redeemer of Adam, the Messiah, to undo the original sin, the work of Satan.

When you go through the Kings of Israel, there are several studies of the offspring of the kings being killed, but one always survives.   You can sense this hand to hand combat going on, between God and Satan.

But then you come to a very strange story.   After King Solomon, there was a civil war, and the nation was divided into the northern and southern kingdoms.   The kings of both Israel [the northern kingdom] and Judah [the southern kingdom] went morally from bad to worse.   The house of Judah is near its end, and it is as bad as it is going to get, and we come to King Jeconiah.   God got so upset with Jeconiah that He does something that seems pretty rash.   He pronounced a “blood curse” on Jeconiah and on his descendants.

Yet this is the royal line for the Messiah.   It is now a cursed line.   How can the Messiah be of this royal line and yet not be subject to the blood curse?

Can you imagine the party in Satan’s penthouse?   They just won the contest, right?   God had committed himself to the notion that the Messiah would be of the royal line of Judah and house of David.   But now, that line is cursed, and there will be no children from Jeconiah. "We got ‘em now", the demons can be heard to be saying.

God's Plan:

God is good, and so clever.   I think he turned to the angels and said, "Watch this one!"   He is going to out-trick the trickster.   What will his solution be?

In the New Testament, God gave Jesus two genealogies. Sometimes that confuses people.   They use that to show that the Bible has internal conflicts, that it is in error.   But as I have suggested many times, when you find what looks like an error, celebrate. Consider it a discovery, because a truth is about to come out.

When you look at the four Gospels, you see that each of them is written by a different person with a different perspective and message.

But looking at the detailed genealogies recorded by Mathew and Luke, you will make a great learning discovery.

First let’s look at the genealogy in Matthew:   As a Levite, a Jew, Matthew focuses on the messiahship of Jesus: he traces the legal line from Abraham (as any Jew would) through David, then Solomon and the royal line, to Joseph, the legal father of Jesus (Matthew 1:1-17).

Then Luke:   As a physician, Luke focuses on the humanity of Jesus; he traces the blood line from Adam (the first man) through David, then through Nathan (a different son of David) to Mary, the mother of Jesus (Luke 3:23-38).

So Matthew lists the genealogy as any real Jew would.   He actually starts with Abraham, the first Jew, and then he goes down to David, just like Luke does.   But at that point the two genealogies part.   Matthew takes the line through Solomon, the kingly line which also includes Jeconiah where the curse was placed.   Then on to Joseph, the legal father of Jesus.

But Luke does it very differently. He is a Greek, not a Jew.   He writes the genealogy in reverse order but in effect starts with the first man, Adam, not the first Jew, Abraham.   He comes down through Abraham, but departs from Matthew’s line.   After David, he takes a left turn.   He does not go through Solomon, the royal heir to the throne. Rather, he follows the line through Nathan, a different son, and down to Heli, the father of Mary, the human mother of Jesus.

So Jesus has claim to the house of David legally through the royal line, but not by the seed of that line, since Joseph was not his father.   So here is the dilemma:   God had said that Messiah would come from the royal line.   But he put a blood curse on the royal line.   Now what?   The Messiah can’t be through Jeconiah.

God's Solution:

"A virgin shall bear a son", Isaiah 7:14.

Why?   Because with this extraordinary genealogy, Jesus can be legally Jewish, in the house of David, and not be an actual descendant of Jeconiah, and yet be a kinsman-redeemer of Adam.

Is God good or what!

Even in Genesis 3 where it talks about the "seed of the woman", that is a linguistic conflict, because linguistically the seed is in the man.   Only a virgin birth could be called the seed of a woman.   Only a virgin birth would solve the Jeconiah blood curse problem.

Now you know why the plan of salvation included a virgin birth.   It was not just God’s whim.   He was solving a dilemma which was being set up by Satan, aAnd Satan lost, as usual.   So around Christmas, people talk about the Virgin Birth, but few understand why the Virgin Birth was a part of the plan.   I remind you that what we have in the Bible are 66 books written by over 40 author over thousands of years.   But it is an integrated message system from God to us.   Every number, every name, every detail, there by design.

There was a reason for the Virgin Birth -- a legal one.   God is a God of justice.   When he makes a rule, he lives by it also.   He handed down the curse on Jeconiah, and then designed a bypass, still within his laws.

God's trump card:

But God had another card up his sleeve.  : It is the “Loophole” of the Daughters of Zelophehad.

Under the Jewish law, all inheritance went to the sons, with one notable exception.   And that exception matters here. That law was amended to permit inheritance through a daughter if no sons were available, so long as she married within the tribe.   In the original law, God declared that the inheritance of a family would go to the sons, and that if there were no sons, the family would simply lose the inheritance.

If you Study the following verses: Numbers 26:33; 27:1-11; 36:2-12; Joshua 17:3-6; 1 Chronicles 7:15, you will find that God through Moses instructed that if there was no son to receive inheritance, and if the daughter married into her own tribe, the inheritance went to the daughter.

I believe (and there is not evidence to the contrary) that the father of Mary did not have any sons.   Mary had no brothers, so the inheritance, even the royal line inheritance to Mary’s father, would have been lost without a male heir, unless his daughter married within the Tribe.

Did she?

Yes, Mary married into the tribe of Judah.   Joseph was in the tribe of Judah.   So she was legally in a position to receive God’s inheritance under this loophole.

God delivered on his promise without reversing the blood curse on Jeconiah, and without breaking his law with regard to inheritance.

Is he good?!

Assignment:

Let’s look at the take-home for you and me.   Are you more powerful than God?   Do you think you can get into such a mess that he cannot design a solution?

If he can do that, he can solve your and my problems, if we just let our ego get out of the way.

Next week: More on Christmas, including the Magi and the Star of Bethlehem.