Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel (Isa 7:14).Have you ever asked yourself "Why"? Why did God plan to have His Son born of a virgin? I mean, He could have had Him born by Joseph and Mary. He could have had Jesus simply appear on the scene. He could have done other things. Why a virgin birth?
Consider this. Remember that the goal of Jesus's Incarnation was to provide a sacrifice suitable to save us from our sin. Consider also that the requirement of such a sacrifice would first be that it comes from a sinless man. If Jesus had sin, He would have had to sacrifice for Himself (Heb 7:26-27). The first characteristic, then, had to be that the sacrifice had to be sinless -- "without blemish".
Well, if Jesus had merely appeared on the scene like some angels had at various times, He certainly could have been sinless. So why not that? Well, remember that the sacrifice had to come from a sinless man. Other sacrifices had been "tried" (so to speak). Goats, sheep, even vegetable products. They were temporary and insufficient. The problem with other sacrifices is that they only pointed to the solution. The solution to sin is singular: death. And the one doing the dying is supposed to be the one doing the sinning. Animals and plants are out. And so is any non-human ... including an angelic or divine being. The sacrifice, in order to be effective for humans, had to be human.
Okay, okay, so He had to be human. But why not just make a natural-born human (say, through Joseph and Mary) be sinless? Well, there are a couple of problems there. First, according to Paul, "sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin" (Rom 5:12). If you are in the line of Adam, you are in the line of sin. The sin nature, then, is inherited from the father. And while Jesus's mother was Mary (making Him human), His father was the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:23). This meant that Jesus did not have the sin nature (as in Eph 2:3 -- "by nature children of wrath") and He was human.
I said, however, that there were a couple of problems with a natural-born human birth. Besides requiring a lack of a sin nature, there was one more requirement for this sacrifice for it to serve its intended purpose. Remember, the purpose of Jesus's Incarnation -- His birth, life, death, and resurrection -- was to provide a sacrifice suitable to save us from our sin. Note the plural in that statement. It was not to provide a sacrifice suitable to save one. It was to save us -- plural. Now, perhaps you don't yet see the problem. You see, if one person sins and a sinless man offers to pay for that sin on his own, you have payment ... for one person. The payment of one man would only cover one man. But God's aim was to cover many. Thus, this sacrifice must be God and Man. It would have to be human in its nature to match the sinners who were being saved. But it would have to be divine in its nature in order to cover more than one sinner. Thus, Christ had to be born of a virgin (without human father) in order to 1) be human Himself, 2) avoid the sin nature that humans carry, and 3) be God in the flesh for the sacrifice to reach far enough.
The Virgin Birth is one of those things these days. Was Jesus actually God? Well, that's just a tough one. Satan? Not so popular. Maybe he doesn't exist at all. The inerrancy of the Bible? Not really likely. The Virgin Birth? Well, since we haven't seen it lately and since science doesn't support it, that, too, is probably a myth. But, look, that doesn't mean we don't believe. We believe well enough. It's just that this sort of thing -- God-Man, virgin births, demonic enemies, that sort of thing -- well, it just doesn't fly in today's scientific world. So if it's not necessary, why make it a stumblingblock? And the answer, as you see, is that it is necessary. It is, indeed, vital. Jesus had to be born of a virgin (over against those who deny the Virgin Birth), had to be human (over against those who deny His humanity), and had to be God (over against those who deny His deity), or none of it matters at all. These are essential -- part of the essence of Christianity. As is the inerrancy of Scripture, the existence of Satan, and all that other "myth" stuff so many seem to be willing to dismiss these days.
So this Christmas as you're enjoying Nativity displays or reading Christmas cards with Mary and Joseph and the Babe on their cover or you're just thinking about the story as written, remember that it was no trivial thing that Jesus was born of a virgin. Remember the care God put into arranging it all. Remember the gift He gave of both God and Man, His own precious Son, in order to save us from our sin. Our sin is no small matter. His was no small gift.