On the surface, that might sound reasonable. But if you look closely, you will see that it does not really do justice to Luke’s narrative. Mary and Zechariah and Elizabeth were not gullible bumpkins who didn’t know how babies were made and believed fantastical stories (nor, for that matter, were Luke and his original readers). They found the whole idea just as unlikely as you and I might, but that’s exactly the point! The great theological truth that Luke is bringing to the forefront by including these events in his “orderly account” is that God’s salvation will come in a seemingly impossible way.
Christmas tells the story of two impossible births.
We are accustomed to stories of women giving birth; according to the best estimates, almost 400,000 babies are born every day. I personally know three families who were blessed with a new baby just this week; births are not particularly extraordinary. But there are two kinds of women who never, ever give birth: very old ladies and virgins. And so it makes sense that in Luke 1 both Zechariah and Mary wrestle with the question, “How can this be?”
The answer comes in verse 37, where Gabriel tells Mary that “no word from God will ever fail.”Mary does not need to know the mechanics of how it will happen; she only need be confident that the Lord has declared that it will happen. His word never fails. As some older translations render verse 37, nothing is impossible with God.
Casting Doubt on the Virgin Birth
Now, roughly a century ago influential theologians began to doubt whether or not that was actually true. They pointed to the virgin birth of Jesus as a superstition that intelligent, modern people simply couldn’t accept. After all, we all know that there is no such thing as a baby being born to a virgin. That’s impossible! If Christianity was going to flourish in the scientific era (or so the thinking went), it would need to jettison these kinds of “myths” that were an insult to our reason and intelligence.