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Guest Opinion: What’s with the virgin birth and Christmas?

Nativity scene, manger scene, Citrus Heights
File photo, a nativity scene on display in 2017 outside Celtic Cross Presbyterian Church in Citrus Heights. // CH Sentinel

Updated 12:55 p.m., Dec. 24th–
By Michael Bullington– As the City of Citrus Heights slows its engines of commerce, the hustle and bustle of government, and the rush of everyday life, what better time to reflect on the reason for the season?

What makes Christmas so singularly special above any other holiday? Certainly, it is the most eagerly anticipated time in the life of every child, with the possible exception of their own birthday. But that has more to do with a jolly fellow in a sleigh full of playthings driven by a team of reindeer, than the original reason for the season. The search for the reason crosses time, geography and culture.

The first big announcement of the coming attraction took place around 700 BC through the pen of a Jewish prophet named Isaiah. His remarkable prediction was the birth of a child through a virgin, and that this child’s name would be Emmanuel, meaning “God with us.”

Yet another fantastic prophecy was made by another Jewish prophet, by the name of Micah, a contemporary of Isaiah’s, who foretold that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem and that “his goings forth would be from of old, from everlasting.”

To examine these two 700-year-old prophecies offers the key to unlocking the meaning of a birthday celebration like no other.

So, why a virgin birth? The Scriptures explain emphatically that man. i.e., all humans, have a sin problem. This problem separates us from a holy, perfect God. To solve this enmity with God required a mediator, and that mediator would have to represent both parties equally.

It brings to mind an experience I had as a teenager when my dad, a civil engineer for a petroleum company in New Orleans, where I was raised, invited me to accompany him on a road trip across the Gulf Coast in the vicinity of the Florida panhandle.

Our first visit the evening we arrived was the local bar near the oil platform that he’d been sent to report on. It had been the scene of a stabbing murder of one of the platform managers. It was strongly suspected that this man died at the hands of men he supervised. It was my dad’s job to interview all of the parties involved and report back to headquarters in New Orleans. The interview with the bar owner was the first step in his process.

The next morning, I began to see why my dad was chosen for this assignment. You see, he was raised in Palmetto, Louisiana, a small rural town where the chief industry was the local sawmill. At the same time, he was university-trained as an engineer, and accustomed to being in the company of his academic peers. The company had decided that he was the perfect man for the job.

After breakfast, he went up on the oil platform and spoke with a gathering of roughnecks, the eponym for the fellas that were country boys and withstood the physical demands of working on a rig. In my mind’s eye I can see him sometimes laughing with these men and other times quietly serious, as he intently listened to their side of the story. As I reflect back on what had occurred on that platform, I believe that when he walked away, they had to have thought to themselves, “We can trust this ole’ boy from Palmetto, because he’s one of us.”

At lunchtime, my dad and I joined several of the managers for lunch. My dad joshed with them about their schools and their football programs, a favorite topic among engineers. And then they spoke about issues on the platform, both technical and personnel. I remember almost nothing of what I heard, but I did have the impression as we walked away from that congenial meeting, that those engineers had to have been thinking to themselves, “We can trust ole’ Ernie Bullington, because he’s one of us.”

I have no recollection of what the outcome of his investigation was, but I did come to learn a life lesson that has underpinned my Christian faith. And that is, the most qualified mediator in a dispute has to be viewed by both parties as representing their best interests. A ready example for me was the negotiating strength of Henry Kissinger vis-à-vis Israel. His ethnic Judaism naturally identified him with the Israelis.

So, the question, why a virgin birth for the Jewish Messiah?

To mediate the estrangement of man from God by sin, a mediator was required who had to be both God and man. Only a virgin birth could provide a perfect mediator. Hence, Jesus was born of a virgin and of God’s Spirit. Joseph was just a spectator to the birth of his first child.

And what of the prophecy about Bethlehem? Bethlehem was called the City of David, the birthplace of Israel’s greatest king, who came through the tribe of Judah. The new eternal king would be descended from an earthly king through the same royal line, hence, being called the Son of David.

As Paul Harvey used to say at the end of his brief commentaries, “Now you know the rest of the story.” Accordingly, I do so hope that what was shared here today will add to the wonder of your Christmas celebration, as you contemplate a miraculous birth, in the meanest of circumstances, of One whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting. Merry Christmas.

Michael Bullington
Michael Bullington

Michael Bullington is a history buff and resident of Citrus Heights for over 35 years. The Sentinel welcomes guest opinion columns from Citrus Heights residents, regardless of viewpoint. To submit an article for publication, click here.

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