God took flesh from a woman who never "knew" a man. It all sounds rather ludicrous.
God was born. The one without beginning began to be. God became man.
Ponder that for a moment: The omnipotent creator of the universe, and all that is contained therein, limited himself. By submitting to human birth and the laws of nature that he ordained, God became contained in the body of an infant. This is no ordinary birth.
Neither is the Nativity of Jesus Christ an amazing birth solely because God took flesh. How he did it is equally mind-blowing: by a virginal conception.
God was born of a virgin mother. Again, ponder with reverence and awe the four principal words of that sentence: God. Born. Virgin. Mother.
In a sense, Jesus' birth was like any other birth. He was born. He was washed. He was clothed. He was nursed. He slept in a small bed. But those are the circumstances of his delivery. How he got into the womb is the true miracle.
So, perhaps we should consider three important aspects related to Jesus' birth from the pure womb of Mary.
For starters, those who search the Scriptures to seek to understand God know that God himself offered a "sign," and this "sign" was foretold eight centuries before Jesus was born:
"Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanu-el (which means "God is with us.)." (Isaiah 7:14).
A "parthenos" (biblical Greek for "virgin") shall conceive. Since the early days of Christianity, this beautiful "sign" has been painted as a fresco on the east wall of many ancient churches.
God said there will be a miraculous birth, a boy will be born and he will be called "God with us." God promised to come into the world in this way.
And so it should be no surprise that when word got out that a divine boy had been born from a virgin mother, pilgrimages were prepared to go to meet him.
From the earliest days, the virginal and pure womb of Mary has been seen as the "incarnate" version of the "burning bush" before which Moses stood shoeless on holy ground. Just as the Lord God spoke to Moses from that bush, which was on fire but never consumed, so likewise, the Lord God sent his word into and through the womb of Mary.
And thus God himself came to speak to all mankind. This humble woman, who contained God in her flesh, was not consumed. What an awesome and strange mystery.
Secondly, since the time that God told Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply, to fill the Earth and subdue it, all human beings have had both a mother and a father. While it would have been perfectly within God's purview to bring Jesus into the world by some unnatural method, he chose the same natural means by which all living creatures come into the world: through a living mother.
Since Jesus' father is divine, it would be through the person, the human woman and human womb of Mary through whom Jesus would be born.
Thirdly, God the father has himself never been seen this side of the grave. He has no material form or flesh. He is, in a sense, spirit. And what was God's method for the creation of all things? His word. By his word all things came to be. He spoke, and they came to be.
In the biblical account of creation, God said, "Let there be light! And there was light."
And so it is "natural" according to God's divine role in the birth of Jesus, that he would speak his son into creation. We can hear the echo of that in Mary's words to the Archangel Gabriel who came to bring the good news of this miracle to her, "Let it be to me according to your word."
When the frenzy of the shopping dies down, when the light begins again to increase on the Earth, when we can find again one moment of silence, then we can ponder this marvelous mystery:
God. Born. Virgin. Birth.
From the pure womb of Mary was the eternal God born a little child.
Heaven and Earth rejoice.
Father John Parker is the pastor of Holy Ascension Orthodox Church in Mount Pleasant.