Along with countless others, I have often said there is nothing superfluous in the Word of God. In fact, I have found it to be just the opposite. Give me more is my constant cry. What do you mean by that, Lord?.... is my questioning. Such was the case with Mary. When told by the Angel..you shall conceive and bear a Son, He will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord will give Him the throne of his father David, she also questions, “How can this be since I am a virgin?” Then comes the “non-superfluous” answer: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you, for that reason the holy child shall be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35)
Just how much doctrine is wrapped up in that single phrase, “the Most High will overshadow you”? Enough to have convened The Council of Chalcedon in the year 451AD and that Council lasted from October 8th to November 1st. (btw, a free download of the Chalcedon Confession and many other Reformed Confessions is available HERE.) The Chalcedonian Creed attempts to state as simply as possible what resulted from that profound event that occurred that night in Bethlehem. In one brief creedal confession they attempted to sum up such doctrines as the incarnation, the diety of Christ, the humanity of Christ, the unipersonality of Christ, the sinlessness of Christ and the nature of Christ. And we also, some 2000+ years later, still must attempt to understand individually that basic question Mary asked: “How can this be....?” We know that this “holy child”, this “Son of God” must be protected from the contamination of sin that every child born of man knows. And we know from the narrative Joseph had not known his betrothed at this point. But what about the contamination of Mary? Job asked the question many years prior, “how can he be clean that is born of a woman”? The Psalmist declares, “there is no one who does good, not even one”. I don’t think we will ever be privy to the detailed procedure involved in this “overshadowing”. Perhaps some hints may be found in some OT passages such as the 91st Psalm...”He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most High shall tent under the shadow of the Almighty, He shall cover thee with His feathers”. All we can surmise is that above all else it is the direct supernatural act of the power of the Most High to keep this child free from all sinful contamination; simply stated,“overshadowed” and for that reason a “Holy Child”...The Son of God.
Whatever and however the conception of our Saviour occurred the result was a “holy child” called the Son of God. A sinless One was conceived, uncontaminated by Mary’s sin through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. It is the Lord Jesus Christ, the perfect, the holy, the sinless man. “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son...; a body hast thou prepared me; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son; and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us; he shall save his people from their sins; Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever; And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” (various prophetic verses)
This is no ordinary birth that we celebrate during this season. “Like us in all respects, sin apart”..as the Chalcedon Confession states it. Holy Child, Son of God, Immanuel..no not an ordinary birth at all. It certainly appeared ordinary..but behind the scenes something truly supernatural was occurring. The Sovereign God of all the universe, the second person of the Godhead took upon Himself human flesh. “For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given...” This Christmas carol sums it up most aptly: “O holy Child of Bethelem, descend to us we pray; Cast out our sin and enter in, be born in us today. We hear the Christmas angels, the great glad tidings tell, O come to us, abide with us, Our Lord Emmanuel”. Nothing is impossible with God. (1:37) Hallelujah, What a Saviour!