Advent with Barth: Of Wombs and Tombs (A Brief Reflection on the Virgin Birth and Resurrection of Jesus Christ)

Second Sunday of Advent, December 9, 2018

Sally Lloyd-Jones wrote The Jesus Story Book Bible several years ago. This is a great volume for all parents who desire to teach their children about how the Bible points us to Jesus and his salvation. But when one begins to read the Bible, we immediately see that the world is different than we expect it to be. Karl Barth has said that the world we see in the Bible is “a strange, new world.” It is a world filled with God breaking into our reality doing things that are beyond the grasp and understanding of human reason. Jesus is God in the flesh, and this means that God has acted miraculously within this person.

As we look at the Christmas story, we cannot escape the miracle that is the Virgin birth. But we cannot act as if this story of a Virgin bearing a son is foreign to the Bible. The Bible is filled with stories of women, who were unable to conceive children, miraculously becoming pregnant and bearing a child of promise. In Genesis, we see Sarah giving birth in her old age to Isaac. We see Jacob’s wife, Rachel, giving birth to Joseph, who became a child of promise. So, when Mary conceives by the Holy Spirit, we should not be overcome with doubt. Instead, we should see that this is business as usual for our God.

But the Virgin womb isn’t just a miracle of biology. This is a foreshadowing of what God is truly up to. Karl Barth says that the Virgin womb of Christmas and the empty tomb of Easter are no accidents. The miracles of the Virgin Mary bearing the Christ child and the tomb from which Christ is resurrected belong to one another. These two miracles, according to Barth, show us that the existence of Christ is purposeful and not accidental. Instead, the existence of Christ begins and ends with what we experience as life and as death. We cannot understand the Virgin birth nor the resurrection fully within our reason, but we know that both point to something outside of ourselves – something greater and something more majestic than we can understand. Both point us to the reality that Christ breaks into our reality and overcomes all the limitations that sin and death impose upon us. It points us to the reality of salvation and the power of God. And as we live our lives from the womb to the tomb, we see that God can do things that we cannot ever imagine or think.

This Advent season is filled with opportunities for us to understand and realize that the “strange, new world of the Bible” does “whisper” the name of Jesus in every one of its pages as well as our lives. May we realize that from birth to death, our lives bear witness to the great miracle of life that we have in Jesus Christ. And may we live filled with the assurance that this Christ that was born from both a Virgin womb and empty tomb is all we need to encounter the world around us. Amen.

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