Christmas, the Gospel, and Motherhood
Author’s note: I first posted this in 2018 on my blog at NTMinistry.com. At the time, I had barely met the wonderful woman who is now my wife. Watching her now carry the child we are expecting, I already have a front-row seat on some of the beauties, joys, and the sacrifices of Gospel-driven motherhood. Thank you, Hannah, for faithfully living out Gospel realities before me every day as we approach our first Christmas as a married couple.
Did Adam have a bellybutton? The question may sound frivolous, but it has been a subject of fairly lively debate in times past. That all being said, one has to wonder if there really is much value at all in navel-gazing about whether Adam had, well, a navel. What is of much more interest—and of much more theological significance—is the stunning reflection that the Second Adam—Jesus Christ my Savior—has one. This reflection is neither irreverent (at least it’s not supposed to be), nor irrelevant. The most ancient messianic prophecy, breathed by God at the same moment as the curse it promised to reverse, made it breathtakingly clear that the coming conquering Seed would come through the woman’s (painful) delivery of a child. A human child.
In the first few chapters of Genesis, the reader is confronted with a God who, in infinite wisdom and creativity, called a world into being and determined to populate it with people—image bearers who would rule over the rest of His creation for His glory. Mankind, charged to rule for God, instead treacherously rebelled against Him and sided with His enemy the Serpent, Satan. And yet, remarkably, the Fall is not the end of the story. The serpent’s bite means death, but those willing to believe God’s promises hear Him tell of an antidote. Satan, intent on getting back at God by turning the crown of His creation, seems to have gained a momentary victory, but God is in control, and announces the outcome in 3:15—the Serpent will be crushed. And he will be crushed by a descendant of Eve.
It is a promise that God is going to fill out with more detail as the story progresses toward redemption and restoration. It is a story that Satan fights to rewrite at every turn. And it is a story filled with genealogies, childbirth, narratives demonstrating God’s sovereignty over the womb, promises about children, birthrights, and inherited blessings. It is the story of a Seed.
The rest of Genesis carefully chronicles God’s development and protection of a Seed line through which the Promised One would come. In spite of barrenness, in spite of human hostility, and in spite of human depravity, God’s superintendence of this Seed line ensures that the prophecy of Genesis 3:15 moves toward its ultimate resolution. As the reader of the Old Testament turns the page and begins reading Exodus, he sees very quickly that Satan’s opposition to God’s promise—and God’s chosen means of bringing it about—is far from over. Here one reads of an evil Pharaoh and his program of systematic, sex-selective infanticide. Reading the opening chapters of Exodus in biblical context reveals that motherhood is prized, faithful midwives are heroes of the faith, and babies are a treasure to be protected.
As the story progresses, the attentive reader never loses sight of the fact that throughout the Old Testament, anticipation is building and light is increasing as genealogy after genealogy, narrative after narrative, threat after threat, providence after providence, covenant after covenant, the story progresses until in the NT, the Son of Man—a human being—the Seed of Eve, the foretold Son of David, the Son of God, comes in the person of Jesus Christ. Embracing the beauty of motherhood even though others would suspect her of unfaithfulness, Mary joyfully accepted God’s call to mother the Messiah. Setting aside personal pride, Joseph accepted God’s call to protect and cherish an eldest son who was not his own but who was conceived by the power of God. Energized by the power of Satan and his own corrupt heart, Herod orders a program of horrific infanticide, but Jesus is protected by the power and wisdom of His Heavenly Father. God’s plan was not to be thwarted. Jesus Christ entered His creation as a human being to accomplish redemption—and He faithfully paid redemption’s price with His own blood. His death on the cross crushed the serpent’s head.
True to the ancient prophecy of Gen. 3:15, the Seed of the woman crushed the serpent’s head and broke his power forever. He gave His life so that those under the curse of death may live forever. Through his righteous life and sacrificial, substitutionary death, He made possible my reconciliation to God. He reversed the curse. He rose from the dead—and He did so bodily. The same body that was torn and bled for you and for me rose again in triumph from the grave. It is a body, we learn, that He keeps forever. My one mediator is the man Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 2:5). The Westminster Confession accurately summarizes the teachings of Scripture: “The only Mediator of the covenant of grace is the Lord Jesus Christ, who, being the eternal Son of God, of one substance and equal with the Father, in the fullness of time became man, and so was and continues to be God and man, in two entire distinct natures, and one person, forever.”
It is hard to find a page of the Bible that doesn’t offer its own unique reflection of this light. And in the whole tapestry of Scripture, the bright threads of Messiah, Seed line, covenant, and motherhood are often tightly interwoven. Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, Leah, Tamar, Ruth, Mary, and others remind us that God’s grand story, to move forward, required at nearly every step that someone embrace the role of motherhood. More often than not, the way things unfolded was, humanly speaking, improbable, unpredictable, imperfect—and superintended by God.
The significance of the incarnation is impossible to overstate. The lessons to be learned and the truths to be treasured are manifold. But here at this end of this reflection, I want to draw from it a couple of quieter lessons we might miss if we are not carefully paying attention to the way this story unfolds through Scripture, if we miss the characters that play their part in this drama of redemption. And I want to draw from it a lesson or two we might miss if we’ve never taken the time to reflect deeply on 1 Timothy 2:15 (look it up for yourself!).
1-Satan hates human life and human flourishing. He has a history of energizing evil people to stamp it out, a history that spans both testaments.
2-God loves, values, and promotes motherhood. So should we.
And while the following observation is not the main lesson to focus on when contemplating the incarnation, it should not escape our notice that God’s plan required the institution of motherhood. In that ancient prophecy, Eve learned that she would be saved through The Childbearing—a coming human Seed. And, I too, am saved through that Child that was born. Among all the other lessons we learn from the way in which God unfolded his plan for our salvation, the importance of motherhood in God’s gospel plan should motivate Christian women for whom God sovereignly allows it, to embrace it as a precious calling. And, it should motivate every one of us to value motherhood as God does.
The Gospel is supposed to shape our thinking about many, many things. One of them is motherhood. Would you do something this Christmas season? Reach out to a person in your life who embraced the calling of motherhood—perhaps at great cost—and let her know how much she means to you—and to God.
Timothy is the Senior Manager in the Office of Ministerial Advancement at BJU & BJU Seminary. He also teaches several courses on both the undergraduate and graduate levels.