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The Wonder of it all! Supernatural, Then and Now

by John R. W. Stott

(Reprinted from an article in the December, 2010 Word and Work)

     The campaign to “put Christ back into Christmas,” with which every Christian must sympathize and agree, immediately raises this question: What sort of a Christ shall we restore to Christmas? Many modern theologians in England, in America, and on the Continent, are telling us that we can only keep the picturesque Christmas story if we are willing to concede that the Incarnation is a “myth.” That is to say, we can no longer accept it (we are being told) as historically or literally true. It contains a spiritual truth, to be sure, but the story which enshrines it is a legend and the virgin birth frankly incredible.

     In opposition to such popular but empty chatter, we need to assert in clear confident tones that we believe “the old, old story.” What we say in the Apostles’ Creed we mean: “conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary.” Borrowing an expression from St. Paul, we would ask: “why is it thought incredible by any of you” that the world’s Savior should be born of a virgin? From first to last Christianity is a supernatural religion. Christ’s life began with a virgin birth: our Christian life begins with a new birth. Both are frankly supernatural. That is, they involve an interruption of the course of nature. Both are attributed in Scripture to the sovereign activity of the Holy Spirit.

     Those who have been born of the Spirit today find no great difficulty in believing that Christ Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit years ago. Similarly, it is really no more miraculous that the Son of God once dwelt in a virgin’s womb than it is that He now dwells in our hearts by faith. What should occupy our attention is not the supposed impossibility of it, but its marvelous condescension. Of this we sing in the Magnificat. Have you ever thought how extraordinary it is that we should take upon our lips a hymn sung by the virgin Mary when she learned that she was to bear God’s Son? How can we possibly sing her words? Only because her experience, which was utterly unique in one sense, is in another sense repeated in every Christian believer. When Christ is born in our hearts, we too can sing with humble astonishment: “He who is mighty has done great things for me.”


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I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Philippians 4:13