I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a super smart dude…and the fact that I use words like “dude”, “rad”, and “stoked” in everyday conversations should only further emphasize that point. My knowledge is relatively wide, covering a vast array of topics but without much depth in most areas. And of the two topics that I do feel highly knowledgeable in; wakeboarding and science…one of them involves a sport that almost nobody follows, and the other reveals my inner nerd to people and thus I do not share it very often. But today I decided to cast all my pride (and possibility any remaining dignity that I may/may not have had) aside and share some of my useless science knowledge with you all. So buckle-up, because this might get weird.
Of all the sciences that my brain choose to store useless information about, there is none greater than my knowledge of the animal kingdom. I literally know everything there is to know about most animals…and this isn’t something I am proud of. But alas, it’s true. Next time you see me just ask me a random question about your favorite spontaneous animal, and I promise to give you at least 3 tidbits of factual information about it. No lie. But why am I bringing this up now? We are in the closing week of Advent, quickly approaching Christmas Day…”So why is Mark talking about animals?” Great question and thanks for asking.
Christmas Day in the Advent calendar marks the birth of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. This day is held in high regard because it represents the symbolic day that Jesus came down from Heaven, entered the world as fully God and fully man, and decided to make His dwelling among His people. And the method in which God decided that this miraculous event would take place was though a young, devout Jewish girl, who was betrothed to be married and who had never had sexual relations with any man. That’s right, she was a virgin. And therefore we celebrate the virgin birth as one of the most joyous miracles that God performed.
“But Mark,” you interject, “why are you telling us about animals and the birth of Jesus?” Another great question, friend…but please don’t interrupt me again. You see, I would like to make the argument that the virgin birth as its own isolated event shouldn’t actually hold much significance. (gasp) Because there are actually countless numbers of animals, both big and small that get pregnant and have babies without ever being with any members of the opposite sex. Starfish, sea anemones, and coral all reproduce asexually by a processes called “budding” and “fragmentation”, in which pieces of the animals break off and form new animals. Bees, stick insects, wasps, and some types of ants also reproduce asexually through a process called “parthenogenesis” in which an unfertilized egg is able to grow and produce a fertile offspring. “Mark, those are all super small and insignificant animals, I’m not sure they…” Why are you interrupting me again? I wasn’t finished. Have you ever heard of Komodo dragons, the largest lizard in the world? What about Burmese and reticulated pythons, two of the longest snakes in the world? Does a hammerhead shark ring any bells? All of these animals are also able to perform parthenogenesis and thus experience virgin births. Various frogs, toads, lizards, and salamanders also use this process when gender populations in their area are low. And don’t even get me started on the dinosaurs in the Jurassic Park movie! (I whisper the movie quote to myself “Life always finds a way.”) The truth is that the world has plenty examples of virgin births, from animals big and small.
John mentioned in his sermon on Sunday a quote from Larry King, the famous CNN talk show host. When asked if he could interview any person in history Larry King stated, “Jesus Christ.” The questioner then asked, “And what would you like to ask Him?” King replied, "I would like to ask Him if He was indeed virgin-born. The answer to that question would define history for me.” And while I believe this quote is true from a biological standpoint (the first natural mammalian parthenogenesis ever recorded), I do not believe that a virgin birth from a regular human would stir anything other than headlines and possibly scientific analysis. I mean look at all the examples of virgin births that the natural world has to offer…it happens all the time! Think about it…If you read an article in tomorrow morning’s paper about a virgin girl who gave birth, would you immediately bow down to her baby and worship him as God? No! You would probably read the article as a “new scientific discovery” and move on with your day. I believe that if Jesus was born of a virgin and then went on to live a mediocre and nominal life that we would have taken His birth simply as a scientific anomaly and nothing more. So therefore I believe that the virgin birth by itself holds about as much significance as a normal man who just happened to die on a cross at the end of his mediocre life.
But because the same boy that was born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14), was born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), from the lineage of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and King David (Genesis 12:3, Genesis 17:19, Numbers 24:17, and Isaiah 9:7 respectively), who fled to Egypt (Hosea 11:1) while escaping a massacre of firstborns (Jeremiah 31:15), would grow up to become a prophet and teacher (Deuteronomy 18:15) who was later rejected by his own people (Isaiah 53:3) and was falsely accused (Psalm 35:11) and betrayed by his friend (Psalm 41:9). And this same boy who was born of a virgin remained silent before his accusers (Isaiah 53:7) and was spit on and beaten (Isaiah 50:6) while carrying his cross in order that he would be crucified alongside criminals (Isaiah 53:12) and yet none of his bones were broken (Exodus 12:46). And during this atrocities, the very same boy who was born of a virgin was praying for his enemies (Psalm 109:4) before he died and was buried in a rich man’s grave (Isaiah 53:9) from which he would later resurrect from the dead (Psalm 16:10), ascend to heaven (Psalm 24:7-10) and be seated at the right hand of God (Psalm 68:18) where he would be acknowledged as the atoning sacrifice for humanity’s sin (Isaiah 53:5-12). Because Jesus fulfilled all these prophecies, and many more, we are able to acknowledge the virgin birth as the catalyst that sent God’s grand finale of salvation into motion. You see, we are only able to celebrate Jesus’ birth because the same boy who was born of a virgin also lived a sinless life, died on a cross, rose from the grave, and conquered sin. We are only able to celebrate what happened on Christmas because of what eventually happened on Easter. Jesus being born of a virgin would have made scientific headlines…but that very same Jesus dying on a cross for the sins of the world and then living to tell about it is what I believe is truly noteworthy about Christmas.
So my final request is this: Remember why you celebrate. The story of Jesus doesn’t stop after the manger at the inn. His focus and goal was fixed on something far greater. Fix your eyes on all of Jesus this Christmas, and see what He is wanting to reveal to you and your loved ones. I guarantee that the longer you fix your eyes on Him, the more beauty and love will find in His story.
Merry Christmas everyone.