Have you ever seen a great artist embellish his work with a flourish? The best painters can mix colors and brushwork to depict beauty and truth on multiple levels. An Olympic figure skater can land the most difficult axels with both technical skill and deceptive ease. A jazz pianist starts improvising new music on the spot, showing off his ability to create.
In Luke 1, God the Father, the creator of the universe, brings about the incarnate birth of his son Jesus with an embellished flourish, as he makes the impossible suddenly happen.
After four hundred years of prophetic silence from God, he sends an angelic messenger to proclaim that there would be two new miraculous births among the people of Israel. First, the angel Gabriel tells Zechariah about the birth of his son John, who would go before the Messiah to turn the hearts of the people of Israel back to the Lord through repentance. Like Abraham and Sarah, Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth are both too old to bear children naturally, and their neighbors marvel at the signs surrounding John’s miraculous birth.
Then, God outdoes himself with Mary. Six months after visiting Zechariah, Gabriel appears to Mary to announce to her that she would conceive the long expected Messiah, Jesus. Through Mary, the Lord over all creation makes the truly impossible happen. As an unmarried girl, Mary knows that she cannot conceive a child, but Gabriel answers her that the Holy Spirit will come upon her and that Jesus will be the son of God himself. Mary’s response displays her humility and her faith: “Let it be to me according to your word” (1:38).
Through Jesus’ virgin birth, God accomplishes what seems impossible to us: he brings about the conception of a child through only one human being. What seems even more mind-bogglingly impossible is that God limits his own eternal being to the finitude of mortal flesh.
As Jesus gave up his heavenly position as the son of God and humbled himself to be born as a baby in Bethlehem, he simultaneously humbled himself to take on our mortal fate. The moment Jesus was conceived, his death became inevitable, because he had given up eternity to take on the measured and finite span of a mortal life.
John Donne writes in a sonnet about the annunciation that Mary becomes the maker of her own Maker, as “immensity” is “cloistered” in her dark womb. Even as we marvel at the “how” of this miracle, our minds should always be drawn to ask “why?”
Why has God deigned to be made flesh? Jesus’ birth made his death inevitable, and by his death he secured forgiveness for sinners like you and me. Through Jesus, God has done the impossible, by loving the unlovable even to the point of sacrificing his own life for us.
God highlights the impossibility of his love for us by punctuating salvation through Jesus with the flourish of these two miraculous births. The creator of the universe breaks the laws of nature so that he can enter into his creation to save his broken people. “For with God, nothing will be impossible” (1:37).