read Matthew 1. It is said of great art that it is unpredictable and yet inevitable. When you listen to Mozart, for instance, you know that no other notes would have served except the ones Mozart chose. If you’ve never heard a particular piece of Mozart’s music, you can’t predict the next note, and yet when you hear it it satisfied completely. The same is true of the virgin birth.
The New Testament bursts onto the stage with words that summarize the full sweep of the Old Testament. Matthew 1 begins with the ancestry of Christ; it opens with the names of people familiar from the Hebrew Scriptures. These are people who lied, cheated, stole, murdered, who committed prostitution and adultery. The New Testament opens with the names of men and women whom God loved.
The story moves from the ancestry of Christ to an angel appearing to an engaged man in a dream. The angel tells this man that he will have to give up his own dreams and accept God’s instead. Because the man obeys, he plays an instrumental role in the salvation of the world. Never think that something God asks you to do is a small thing. The task God gives you plays a monumental role in the tapestry he is weaving. If you, like Joseph, do as you are commanded, you will have been woven into the very epicenter of God’s plan.
For God’s plan is like the most perfect art. His plan, as revealed in this chapter, is both familiar and new. The virgin birth is both unpredictable and yet necessary. What is true of great art is true of God, because God is the most perfect Creator of all. When God made the world, the Spirit of God “hovered” over the face of the waters. God’s spirit “broods.” His Spirit is ready to explode with life. His Spirit hovered over Mary. It “brooded” over her. It filled her emptiness.
For new life is always the result of God’s creation alone. When the same Spirit that created our world brooded over Mary, the Spirit brought to life a child whose name means “God with us.” The child came into a world filled with murderers, adulterers and prostitutes, with liars, self-righteous bigots, gossips and cheats. The child came to us in our humanity. He is with us in our imperfection. The virgin birth was not something we could have invented, and yet it was inevitable. How else could God save a broken world, but by coming down to it himself and making all things new?