On Christmas, we remember the birth of Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. From heaven he came to us, and to heaven he will bring us. The birth of Jesus, however, did not come out of a void. The totality of history, of the created order, led to this moment. His birth not only leads to our new birth, but it stands on the pinnacle of the mountain of births that lead up to this moment.
Jesus was born in the fullness of time, according to the plan of God, at the centre of history, as the purpose of creation, and finally revealed in a manger in Bethlehem.
To grasp the birth of the one who holds all things together by his power, while also wiggling in the manger as a newborn baby, we need to look at five important births in the Bible.
1. God Made Adam Without a Father or Mother
The first birth is the birth of Adam, the first human being God created, according to Genesis chapter 2. Genesis 2:7 says, “the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”
Christmas means our exile from God and the tree of life has ended.
Out of the dust that God created, he formed the first human being. And so he would not be a soulless golem of clay, God breathed life into the man—so that “the man became a living creature.”
God created a man without a biological father or mother. And all people descend from this one man.
2. God Created a Woman from the Side of a Man
The second birth is the birth of the woman, named Eve. She and Adam marry according to Genesis 2. And God forms her from the side of Adam, as Adam lays in deep sleep (Gen 2:22). Matthew Henry says of this event:
“Eve was not taken out of Adam’s head to top him, neither out of his feet to be trampled on by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected by him, and near his heart to be loved by him.”
And so it is for all time as Genesis 2 tells us how man and woman, husband and wife, should live in harmony with each other. It also tells us that God created Adam without father or mother, man or woman. He also created Eve from the side of man.
So Adam is created without man or woman, and Eve is created with man but not with woman.
3. God Makes Every Human Through a Mother and Father
The third birth is the birth of all people through a man and a woman. But though creation offered new life, Adam and Eve chose a way of death. They listened to the voice of a serpent, a serpent who deceived them by using lying words. They listened to the snake. They ate from a tree God forbade them to eat from.
And so after Adam and Eve together eat from a forbidden tree, God exiles them from the Garden in Eden, away from his presence. As they sinned against God, now they could not approach the tree of life and live forever. And as sin spread to all people, so death comes to everyone (Rom 5:12).
But God does not leave humanity without grace, or a promise of good news to come. In Genesis 3:15 God says to the serpent: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
Let me break that down. God says, I will put enmity between you, the Serpent, and the woman, Eve and all people after her. We know this because God moves to enmity between the serpent’s offspring and the woman’s offspring. But then here is the amazing part of the promise: The offspring of the women will bruise the head of the serpent, while the serpent will merely bruise his heel.
The picture is this: a serpent slithers along in a field and bites your foot. Then you raise up your leg and smash his head to pieces. The bite stings. But the crush kills.
And also: note the promise says her offspring or her seed, depending on the translation. The Bible more commonly talks about the seed of a man, although it can talk about the seed of the woman too. Here, it’s the seed of the woman. That will be important in a moment.
And Genesis 4:1 begins to show how this promise will be fulfilled. It records the first natural birth between a man and woman, yet Eve still credits God with particular help: “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, ‘I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.’”
Born of the human race without sin’s stain, Jesus can redeem the whole human race by repaying the debt that neither Adam nor Eve could have paid.
The word “gotten” here testifies to the reality that the LORD brings life to a dead place. Though Adam and Eve live in the shadow of death, being exiled from the tree of life and the presence of God who is life, the LORD still blesses those in death’s shadow with life: life in the children that mothers and fathers can bear.
This pattern recurs throughout the Old Testament, as God blesses infertile women with fertility (Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Hannah, etc.). In each case, God we might say brings life to places where life could not naturally grow (Rom 4:17).
All of this leads to the fourth birth.
4. God Uniquely Works Through a Virgin Woman to Conceive One New Man
As Anselm of Canterbury (d. 1109) observed about nine-hundred years ago, God can create humans in four ways (Cur Deus Homo 2.8):
From neither a man nor a woman — as he created Adam
From a man without a woman — as God formed Eve from Adam’s side
From a man and a woman — as Adam and Eve did with their children, and as we all do
From a woman without a man — as God did uniquely and unrepeatably with Jesus
Jesus was born of a virgin named Mary, from a woman without a man. The Holy Spirit worked through her, and she conceived, bearing an offspring, a seed.
This offspring Jesus shares in the nature of Adam, just as Eve did by being part of the side of Adam, one in nature with him. As woman shares fully in man’s nature, so Jesus fully is human.
This offspring Jesus, however, like Adam was born without the stain of sin, since sin somehow derives from natural births from a man and woman.
Born of the human race without sin’s stain, Jesus can redeem the whole human race by repaying the debt that neither Adam nor Eve could have paid. Sinless and human, Jesus lives a perfect life and dies in the place of sinners like you and me to redeem Adam’s helpless race.
He is the Seed of the woman, the virgin woman, without the gamete (seed) of a man (Gen 3:15). The serpent bites his heel at the cross, but Jesus crushes his head at the resurrection.
He is of one nature with Adam, but his miraculous virgin birth without sin makes him a new Adam. As Paul says, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor 15:22).
As a new Adam, he is not just a living creature who through sin gave the gift of death to all men. But as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:45: “’The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit” (1 Cor 15:45).
And as is fitting for one who is born of a woman without a man, the only person in creation to share this unique birth, he is also Immanuel—God with us (Isa 7:14; Matt 1:21–23). God himself came to save his people in Jesus Christ.
The serpent through Adam gave us death. Jesus crushes the serpent’s head and gives us the gift of life. Death spread to all people, because sin spread through the children of Adam and Eve. Jesus as a new Adam makes us all new creations in him, so that neither sin nor death reigns, now life does.
The promise of Eve’s seed, every infertile woman in the Old Testament, the promise to David that his offspring would be king forever (2 Sam 7:12–16), the whole story of life in birth and death in the Bible, of reality, of births today and yesterday and tomorrow point to one thing: the centre of all things, the centre of creation, the centre of all births points to the birth we celebrate at Christmas: Jesus.
And there is one last birth to talk about: ours.
5. God Through Jesus the New Adam Makes all Those who Believe in Him Born Again
Our first birth into Adam’s line promises us sin, death, and exile from God. Our second birth into the New Adam promises us a Life-Giving Spirit. “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor 15:22). “’The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit” (1 Cor 15:45).
Peter writes, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Pet 1:3–5).
Paul says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor 5:17).
And finally, Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).
By faith, Jesus gives us his Spirit who renews our nature into the image of the new Adam. And he rose from the dead so that we would rise from the dead and receive a body fitting one who would join the Adam without corruption to sin’s stain. And we can once again live with God forever in the new creation, enjoying the tree of life as Revelation 22:2 says.
And as Christ is our head in his cosmic body, so we are his body on earth. As Paul says, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Rom 16:20). Because the man Jesus Christ crushed Satan, all of us who by faith are in the New Adam Jesus will likewise have Satan crushed under our feet.
This Christmas remember Jesus’s birth, and in his birth, remember ours. His birth into this world means that we can all be born again free of sin, the threat of eternal death, and can have victory over evil as we hope for the resurrection of our mortal bodies.
Christmas means our exile from God and the tree of life has ended. It’s time to return to paradise now by faith in Jesus the new Adam. By faith, we enjoy this reality in hope. But when Jesus returns to take us home, we enter into paradise again. No more tears, no more death, no more sin, and no more exile from the living God.