A Barren Christmas?
What in your life have you anticipated most? Is it an event? A trip perhaps? Was it seeing a person for the very first time or the first time in a very long time? When I was a child it always created such excitement when my parents told me and my sisters that we would be visiting grandparents. Days and sometimes weeks in advance our anticipation would grow as the day to leave got closer and closer. Quite often in the night before the big day my excitement kept me from sleeping.
This kind of expectation is a good reminder of the gospel of the Messiah. Promised shortly after Adam & Eve’s sin He would once for all incapacitate the serpent and his offspring as well as remove the effects of the fall (Gen. 3:15). One might imagine that Eve wondered if her first born son might be the fulfillment of the promise (Gen. 4:1). But as we know the waiting would continue without ultimate fulfillment for millennia.
One theme that points very clearly to this anticipation of the seed to come is the idea of the barren woman that is found in and woven throughout the Old Testament and even into the New. Beginning with Abraham's wife Sarah and including Rebecca and Rachel the harsh reality of not being able to bear children pressed in on many women. In light of the creation mandate; “be fruitful and multiply” the people of those days felt this weight far more than we today. No children, no offspring and particularly no male offspring meant that family was unable to fulfill the directive of the Most High. And even those today who find themselves in this situation will feel it more than the rest.
Hannah, Manoah’s wife and the Shunammite woman all continue this thread of seeming hopelessness throughout the Testament. And Isaiah brings this idea into the fore and applies it to Israel herself who was apparently not baring children (spiritually) as she was intended to do (Isaiah 54:1). Then finally, at least 4000 years after the original promise there's another barren woman. Elizabeth, was like so many before unable to have a child (Luke 1:7). And then, also like her predecessors God miraculously moved, opening her womb.
I'm convinced that each and every one of these instances of the barren womb to miraculous birth set the stage for the absolutely most miraculous conception ever. Like the families of the Old Testament and like the people of God in a spiritual sense, the world was unable to produce the promised seed. It would have to be “of the Holy Spirit”. Centuries passed without the appearing of the promised one. And then God opened a womb that was barren, not because of any biological problem but because of His design for human reproduction. With zero human effort God made it happen.
The womb God opened was much bigger than the reproductive organs of the Virgin Mary. The “seed of the woman” had arrived. Her son, also the son of God, would live a life of perfect completion and entirely without sin. And so in Christ, because of what he has accomplished, the womb of spiritual birth has been opened to all of us. We can now all truly be born again. We the unfaithful, can experience the reverse of the curse and eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord, born so long ago. No more waiting! No more unfruitfulness! No more anticipation. That is the message of one of my favorite Christmas hymns; Oh Come all You Unfaithful. In closing I would commend it to you as we rejoice in what the Barren Woman points us to. Christ our Messiah is Joy to the World, Peace on Earth and Merry Christmas all wrapped in One fulfillment. Thank God for his miraculous work. We wait no longer!
Tonia and I wish all of you the most worshipful of Christmases and a New Year full of marveling at the provision of the child born King!