Tucked away in the pages of Isaiah, scattered among the messages Isaiah spoke to his contemporaries, are prophetic references to the birth of Jesus, the Christ.

In Isaiah 7:14 we read: ‘The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.’

Two important truths about the person of Christ are contained in this verse:

That this child is a truly human child, the ‘seed’ or ‘offspring’ of the woman who would defeat the great enemy of God and of humans. His supernatural, abnormal conception does not deny or compromise his real humanity. But, as the child of the woman, supernaturally created in her womb, he does not carry the sin common to all the descendants of Adam.

That this child is also, at the same time, truly God – ‘Immanuel’ – God with us. God, the Lord of glory, in human flesh. God without reduction or change.

But these two truths evoke negative human reactions:

To those locked into a materialistic, secular worldview, the idea of a virgin conception is ridiculous. It simply does not happen and cannot happen. For such people, supernatural things do not happen because they do not believe there is such a thing as a real, supernatural ‘god’. The ‘virgin birth’ factor puts the Christmas story in the realm of ‘myth’ – a nice story, but not true – for people who have no idea that an all powerful God actually does exist. To say that ‘God’ became human is a meaningless statement – another religious fantasy, without substance, without reason, without relevance.

To those locked into either Jewish, non-trinitarian, or dualistic religious mindsets, the idea of a human child being ‘Immanuel’ – ‘God with us’ – is highly offensive. God is holy; he does not become human. God is one; he does not share his glory with another. God is spirit; he does not become flesh. This ‘God with us’ aspect– this concept that this human baby is actually God in human flesh – puts the Christmas story in the realm of heresy for people with a high, but limited, concept of God.

Human denial of these two key elements of the Christmas story is foretold in Isaiah and recorded in the New Testament: that Christ, the Lord Almighty – Immanuel, God in human flesh – came to his land, came to the earth he had created, but he was rejected. The Jews of Jesus' day, and multitudes from all nations, stumble over the story of the virgin birth, and stumble over the message of God in human flesh.

The one thing that could reverse their ignorance of God and their alienation from God is the one thing that they will not and cannot do: they will not and cannot believe that the Christmas message of God becoming man is actually true truth. They will not and cannot believe that Jesus Christ actually is Immanuel.

The original, true Christmas story is too demanding. It is far easier not to believe it. Rather than believe the original, true Christmas story the unbelieving world smothers it under secular, non-threatening alternatives. They make up their own imaginary stories – about red-nosed reindeers, about chimneys and sleighs and elves and Santas – and focus on them. Anything ... anything to avoid considering the possibility that that other Christmas story, the real one, might be true.

Because, if it is true ... if there is a God who did become human ... if Jesus actually is God, then both the secular unbeliever, and the religious unbeliever, are mistaken. Not only mistaken about Christmas, about the incarnation, but also about God himself.

Scriptures: Isaiah 7:14; Genesis 3:15; Romans 5:12-21; 1Cornithians 15:21,22; John 1:14; Philippians 2:6-8; Isaiah 8:8,13-15; Romans 9:32,33; 1Peter 2:6-8; Isaiah 59:19; John 1:10,11; Isaiah 8:18; Hebrews 2:13; John 8:19.

© Rosemary Bardsley 2016