During a recent sermon, I found myself meditating on the mysteries of the virgin birth. As I did so, I remembered a story I hadn’t thought about in years (this is a fairly accurate retelling, I hope, of a real-life incident).
Once there was a seminary professor who liked to be cheeky. One day out of the blue he started talking about how there were no miraculous births in the Bible. He went on a mini-rant about how he hated the idea of miraculous births and found the entire concept to be pagan in its entirety.
“Like Zeus birthing Athena from his very mind, puh-leeze. Miraculous births indeed.”
His students were horrified and one of the more assertive students finally spoke up and said, “Are you saying that Christ’s birth was not a miracle?”
He responded, “Christ, Samuel, Isaac, you name it, there’s not a single birth in the Bible that didn’t happen the way that every other birth in history ever has occurred. And I dare any of you to prove it.”
The students all dove into their Bibles, looking for ways to prove him wrong, underlining passages with fingertips and gasping to be able to articulate their impassioned objections to his statement. One after another they chimed in enthusiastically. One student was about to share the sense of the miraculous that he and his wife shared following their own struggles with infertility when the professor finally sighed.
“Each of you is wrong,” he responded flatly. “Not one of those was a miraculous birth. Every single one of those children were delivered through their mother’s birth canal, just like every other child of every mammal who’s ever lived, except for those who were delivered by caesarean, which is basically the same thing. Now the conception, that’s another thing. God’s intervention in history has happened through miraculous conceptions many times, chiefly in Christ’s conception and subsequent gestation in the womb of a virgin. A virgin! Sarah and Hannah’s pregnancies were marvelous in their own rights, but not completely off the charts. But for a virgin to conceive is another matter altogether. It is a ponderous miracle. Let that sink in. And ask yourself, by the way, whether life begins at birth or at conception?” at which point he went off on a new tirade about why God’s foreknowledge should impact our understanding of the sanctity of life.
We have plenty of examples of females in some species becoming pregnant without the assistance of males (it’s called parthenogenesis), but in those instances the offspring are always females; there is no “Y” chromosome present (in a few species that are not X / Y dependent, it’s possible for males to arise through parthenogenesis, but not in so-called higher species).
Ponder that marvelous mystery, that the “seed of a woman” brought forth a male child. Ponder the advanced understanding of genetics that is present in that miracle. Ponder the marvelous power that the One who made the universe might reveal Himself in such a way. Immanuel: “God is with us.”