“And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.” "(Luke 1:34–35)
Do you have to believe in the Virgin Birth to be a Christian? The short answer to this, of course, is "No!" The only thing you need to be a Christian is faith clinging to Jesus Christ -- Jesus as Savior, and Jesus as Lord. Faith, pure and simple. Faith trusting He died in your place, for your sins. Faith believing that His life and His death are enough to satisfy the debt you owe to God, to pay the ransom price of your soul, to settle the death-wages each of us owes the Almighty (Romans 6:23). In the course of history, there were many people who had probably never heard of the Virgin Birth and yet were saved. Think of the dying thief, for example. Had he heard of Mary's miraculous conception? I doubt it! Think also of the many people who heard the simple gospel message before Matthew and Luke's accounts were completed -- more than 20 years after Christ's death and resurrection. They too enjoyed full, free, and forever mercy from the Throne of Grace.
While making this point crystal clear, however, we must not in any way pretend that the Virgin Birth is somehow superfluous to the Christian gospel -- a gospel, after all, that is supernatural in nature, miraculous to its core. It is important to realize this at the start. Disbelief of the miraculous acts rather like a universal solvent. It is hard to contain. Doubt tends to spread. Before long, if unchecked, skepticism will leave little left of the gospel that one can truly believe.
So, if you find yourself balking at the Virgin Birth, ask yourself: where will this incredulity stop? Will your cynicism help you embrace the Creation account of Genesis, the Flood in Noah's day, God's call of Abraham, the Exodus from Egypt with its plagues and Passover, the booming voice from Sinai, the Prophet's infallible, "Thus saith the LORD?" All these things are miraculous. Does your faith allow you to believe them?
Or what about the miracles of the New Testament? The need for faith in the miraculous did not evaporate in the white space between the books of Malachi and Matthew? Are we really to believe that Jesus is God, the Son enfleshed in our nature? What about the miracles of His ministry? Did these really happen? Did His death have sin-atoning, saving significance? Was He raised from the dead on the Third Day? Or was this just a literary metaphor, a sentimental and fantastic way of saying, "He continues to live on in the minds of His followers?"
And what about those days when we feel ourselves in desperate need of the miraculous? Are we not dead in sin (Ephesians 2:1-3)? Has Jesus not said that unless a man is born again, he can neither see nor enter the Kingdom of heaven (John 3). Is such a miraculous, inside-out renewal possible? Can I really be made clean to the very core of my being (Titus 3:3-7)? Or is the Bible's description of regeneration more hyperbole that really means to describe my work not God's, a new start that I give myself, or perhaps that others decide to give me? If there are no such miracles, what can be done for a soul that needs them?
And what will I do when I come to die, when I arrive at the end of nature, and stand on the brink of eternity? Resurrection metaphors and legends will not cut the ice on that day. We will need a stronger hope, one that does not disappoint (Romans 5:3-5). Is there really going to be a New Heavens and a New Earth in which righteousness dwells? Or are these just more examples of metaphorical (read: "ultimately meaningless") language. In the final analysis, a religion that is demythologized enough to please its "cultured despisers" will probably be only good enough to give you half-decent buns and cakes down at the Church hall the next time the congregation rustles up another fundraiser. But don't expect it to give you any help when it comes to the weightier aspects of the law: death, judgment, heaven, hell, and the last things!
But there is an even deeper question here, isn't there? If we are honest, it's not miracles that people doubt, it is God Himself. In the end, the miraculous only becomes a problem if the God of the miraculous isn't really there. But, as C.S. Lewis so wisely quipped, "If such a God exists miracles are not only possible, they are to be expected. It's a package deal!" It is here, then, with an open Bible, a ready heart, and a willing mind that we will find the real Christmas miracle this yuletide season: In Christ, God is there, and He is not silent.