“But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both advanced in years.” Luke 1:7 Where have we heard this before? At the fountain head of the nation of Israel, we find an elderly, barren couple, Abram and Sarai (God would later change their names to “Abraham” and “Sarah”). But even if we go back farther, to the fountain head of humanity, we find Adam and Eve, a couple who are grieving the loss of a murdered child and who are working the ground “by the sweat of their brow” so that it might bear fruit instead of thorns and weeds. It seems that the whole world groaned in the agony of fruitlessness, of barrenness. According to Israel’s scriptures, the One true God who created all of the world and considered it to be a good thing, had a solution to the problem of evil in the world, the problem that was causing the barrenness.
To the surprise of everyone, not least Abram and Sarai, God choose them and their family to be the solution to the problem of barrenness and death. This was not Abram’s idea and this must be clearly understood or else nothing wonderful can come of this tale. Old Abram was a good as dead when God introduced Himself and said, “In you and in your family, all the nations of the earth are going to be blessed.” Abram did not approach God with a solution he concocted and it doesn’t appear that Abram had a choice in the matter. Much like the ghosts visiting Ebeneezer Scrooge whether he wanted them too or not, God simply declared His intention upon Abram and his wife Sarai, and consequently changed their names to Abraham and Sarah. Welcome to the doctrine of election. This did not mean necessarily that Abraham and Sarah would personally benefit from this arrangement, in fact, most of the promises made to Abraham would not be realized for hundreds of years and some of them are still waiting for their complete fulfillment today, but it did mean that they were God’s chosen vehicle for solving the problem of evil in the world. And for this reason, they would be an incalculable blessing for all ages to come. The problem of barrenness was to be solved by the God of Abraham and Sarah, through the agency of the barren woman. It is hugely significant for us to realize that God did not scrap the situation with the barren woman and start all over with a younger, more fertile woman. God’s solution to the problem of evil and the problem of barrenness, as we will discover through Jesus on the cross, was not to go around it, but to go right through the middle of it and out the other side. God’s solution to the problem of evil within His “good” creation was not to scrap the project and start all over but rather to step into its’ problems and work through them out the other side. This is the ultimate good news of the incarnation which is the Christmas story: God is becoming King on earth as it is in heaven, through the agency of a human being who was born through a young virgin’s womb, that is, a womb which never before bore children. Jesus’ cousin ,John, was also born to a woman who had never had children and was now“advanced in age”. And since this woman was the wife of one of the chief priests, this event would cause all of Jerusalem to stir, sit up, and take notice. The God who introduced Himself to their fathers through giving fruit to a barren couple, was speaking yet again through the womb of a formerly barren woman. God was on the move and Christmas was coming.