Every Christmas, we are confronted with images of a manger, a little baby, loving parents, a few miscellaneous men in the background, an angel or two and a collection of miscellaneous farm animals. Otherwise known as a nativity scene. Of course, the baby in the manger is the central character, but one other person gets nearly as much attention. The loving mother, the virgin Mary.
In our day of sexual freedom, being a virgin is not generally considered a praiseworthy thing. To identify someone as “the virgin Charlene” would most likely be viewed as an slur. So why do we call Mary “the virgin”?
The answer to this question is found in Biblical prophecy, angelic pronouncement and the character of Jesus. Over 700 years before Jesus was born, the prophet Isaiah wrote, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14) The prophecy of a virgin birth is one of many included in the book of Isaiah that describe the coming Messiah. God promises through Isaiah that the sign of the Messiah will be a son born of a woman who had never enteree into sexual relations with a man.
About nine months before Jesus birth angels visited the loving parents from the nativity, Mary and Joseph. Luke 1 tells of the angelic visit to Mary. The angel declared to her that she was going to give birth to a son. To which declaration Mary asked a very pertinent question, “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” “Know not” is Bible speech for never had sexual intercourse. Since Mary understood the process by which children are born, her question is very logical. Mary, being a virgin, knew she could not have a baby. Except, as the angel goes on to explain, by God’s power which would cause her to miraculously conceive a child without any male input.
Matthew 1 tells of the angelic visit to Joseph. When Joseph discovered Mary was pregnant he intended intent to put her away. Before he could act on his intention an angel came to him and declared that Mary was not pregnant through any immoral act on her part, but “that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.” The angels declared that Jesus was conceived in the womb of a virgin.
Most important to this question is the character of Jesus. Jesus was God who took upon Himself human nature. Jesus remained fully God while also becoming fully human. The one thing Jesus did not take to Himself is man’s sin nature. Romans 5 teaches sin has passed to all men from Adam. The implication is that the sin nature is passed from one generation to the next by the father. For Jesus to be born without a sin nature, he must have been born without a human father.
Mary’s virginity is important because it is the fulflillment of the promises of God. The virgin Mary is not important because of her own purity and goodness, but because through her God keeps His Word to give His people an unmistakeable sign of the coming of His Messiah. Mary is important because her lack of sexual contact makes plain that the child born of her was not Joseph’s or some other man’s. Mary’s viriginity leaves no room for the baby Jesus to be any but the Son of God.