It is Christmas! That most wonderful time of the year when we stop to celebrate the wondrous miracle of a new Star Wars movie. I jest, of course. I hope.
Really, the new Star of Christmas is the wonder of what we call the incarnation, when the Christ was born as one of us, but not by a normal conception. As explained in Matthew 1:18-25 and Luke 1:26-38, God became flesh through Mary’s womb, but not proceeding from sexual intimacy with a husband.
Our culture considers this claim a humorous curiosity. In the theatre where I saw Star Wars Episode I (The Phantom Menace, 1999), when Shmi Skywalker explains how her son, Anakin, was conceived without any man, a backstory with obvious Christian overtones, the line was greeted by peels of uproarious laughter. But the fact is that this singular feature of the incarnation proceeds from a profound necessity of our condition and the requirements of salvation.
Ask yourself this: Why a woman and not a man? Why not have Christ come through a man with the wonder of it being that it was done without a woman? I mean, so long as God is doing a miracle, he could certainly have done it the other way. Why not leave the woman out instead of the man? That might be even more of a show-stopper, you know? Might even top the release of another Star Wars movie. And after all, men are supposed to be so important in the Bible, right?
Well, the answer to this question is not because it was important to have a woman involved. As if, God felt that good taste demanded a feminine part to the story, to even out the narrative or to increase the box office receipts. It was not because it was important to have a woman involved, but the opposite. Mary’s virgin birth happened because it was important to not have a man involved.
You see, Christ came because we needed salvation. The first Adam (not Eve—Romans 5:14, 1Corinthians 15:22, 45), was the representative head of us all, the human family. Adam was created first, so he was the head. A critical part of being the head is being the representative of the family. It was his sin that doomed us and we all sinned in him. This is termed ‘original sin.’ We can clarify this by answering the following two hypothetical questions: If Eve had sinned but not Adam, would we all have been born with original sin? The correct answer is ‘no.’ And if Adam had sinned and not Eve, would we all have been born with original sin? The answer is ‘yes.’ (Consult, for example, the discussion in G.C.Berkouwer’s Studies in Dogmatics: Sin, pp503-507).
The covenant of grace which accomplished our salvation, beginning in the birth of Christ, was a covenant between God and the man, Jesus, as the Second Adam. It is because the fully human Jesus was the second Adam (not the second Eve), that He could act as our Head without sin. Unlike Shmi’s kid who turned out to be a real disappointment, Mary’s child really was “The One.” This new “unbegotten one” lived the perfect life as our new representative. So we receive His reward.
So you see gender is very important in this operation. Man was the representative of original sin, so he could not beget the re-starter in the covenant of grace. The new man had to come without that original-sin carrying man participating in the operation.
This is not to say that Mary was sinless—and here I know I part ways from my Roman Catholic brethren—but that, as a woman, she did not carry the burden of the human family’s representation. So she could carry Christ in her body, making Him fully human, but He was born without original sin. We are saved in the femininity of Mary and the masculinity of Jesus Christ!
Merry Gendered Christmas!