Every Christmas, we are confronted with images of a manger, a little baby, loving parents, a few vague men in the background, an angel or two and a collection of miscellaneous farm animals. Otherwise known as the nativity scene. Of course, the baby in the manger is the central character, but one other person gets nearly as much attention. The virgin Mary gets nearly as much attention as the baby Jesus.
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, in the angelic pronouncement and in 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 prophecies in the book of Isaiah that describe the coming Messiah. God promised through Isaiah that the sign of the Messiah will be a son born of a woman who had never entered 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 describes the angelic visit to Mary. The angel declared to her that she was going to give birth to a son. Mary responded with a pertinent question, “How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?” “Know not” means “never had sexual intercourse.” Since Mary understood the process by which children are conceived, her question is very logical. Mary, being a virgin, knew she could not have a baby. The angel goes on to explain that God’s power would cause Mary to miraculously conceive a child without any human father.
Matthew 1 tells of the angelic visit to Joseph. When Joseph discovered Mary was pregnant he intended intent to call off their impending wedding. Before he could act on his intention the angel declared that Mary was not pregnant through on immoral action, 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.
Mary’s virginity is not important for Mary’s sake, but to show the character of Jesus. Mary later conceived other children through natural means. Mary did not remain a perpetual virgin. Her virginity at the birth of Jesus is of importance because of what it says about Jesus. Jesus is God who became human, but He became man without taking on Himself the sin nature. Romans 5 teaches that 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 sion, he must have been born without a human father.
Through Mary God kept 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 any other man’s. Mary’s viriginity leaves no room for the baby Jesus to be anything but the Son of God.