From Matthew 1:
20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).
In our world today sex/gender is hotly contested. Some people claim that gender doesn’t exist, and some people claim it exists but you choose your own gender for yourself. Most people think sex exists but they think it is something that can be chosen and you can alter your body to match the sex you want to be (or that you are truly in your mind/soul). We live in a world where people have rejected “the binary” and it takes more than 50 terms to classify all the different variations of people out there in their sex/gender/sexuality combos. Yet many don’t even want to be forced into one of these categories.
In crossdressing circles, there is also the idea that the best person is someone who is a mixture of the masculine and feminine. The idea is that a person like this is more fully human, more well-balanced, and overall healthier. So the argument is that it is good and healthy and better for everyone if some people can be a mixture of male and female, or else they can be male at times and female at other times. Crossdressers and some of their accepting wives love to say that it is a beautiful thing for a man to embrace his “feminine side” or the “feminine within him.”
In stark contrast to all of this, we get the Christmas message. The wonderful astounding amazing news of Christmas is that the 2nd person of the Trinity, the Son, God himself, became a human being. We will never fully understand this mystery, of how the Creator could become the creature. It is the beauty of Emmanuel, God with us. As John 1 says, he “tabernacled” among us, to live with his people. This means that people could actually reach out and touch God, as they reached out and touched Jesus. It is incredible. And not only did the incarnation reveal God himself to humanity in the fullest way possible, but the incarnation was also necessary for our salvation.
If God wanted to remain a God of justice but also give us mercy, he had to have a way for humans to take the punishment that humans deserved. Punishing a sheep just didn’t cut it. An animal can’t really take the place of humans. And if God punished humans as they truly deserved, then how could he show us his incredible mercy? He had to show his justice and mercy together at once. The only way to accomplish that was to punish himself instead of us, but he could only do that by becoming a human. Jesus, as our representative human, took the punishment for humans, for all those that have trusted in him as their sacrifice. Jesus lived the perfect righteous life we could not live. And he took the punishment that we deserve. Through him we have salvation and eternal life. Thanks be to God!
But the incarnation tells us something about sex and gender as well. If the incarnation had not happened yet, what might we expect? In today’s modern culture, I would imagine we would think – “God created both males and females, and if he is going to become a human, he will want to reveal the fullness of both, so perhaps in an incarnation, he will be some kind of hermaphrodite, neither male nor female, but fully human. Maybe he will be genderless. Or maybe he will be born as a boy or girl but then live a genderless androgynous life embracing both genders?”
But what actually happened in the incarnation? Jesus was born as a boy. Not an “it” not a “zie,” or a “sie,” or a “they,” but a “he,” a boy. He became a son, a baby boy, and later a full grown man, a brother. These are not genderless terms. He was a man, a male, in sex and gender (with sex and gender not being divided or separated or confused unlike our modern gymnastics with these term).
Could Mary have been promised a girl? I don’t see why not. But the fact is that God had to choose one of the two, either male or female. Why? Because that is how he created people to be, male and female. And the incarnation is so powerful precisely because God was born to be exactly as we are, not some kind of super-human, not some kind of genderless androgynous being, but the same kind of humans that we are. Therefore Jesus was not attractive, not notable, he ate, he slept, he drank, he pooped, he cried as a baby, and he had a penis. He was a real man in every way.
The incarnation shows us that God’s creation of humans is good, so good that God was willing to become a human. This shows that we don’t have to be ashamed of our bodies, of ourselves. The incarnation is a stamp of approval both on humanity in general, and the goodness of the individual sexes. We don’t have to strive for some kind of median between male and female, we don’t have to strive to be androgynous. Not only do we not need to, we shouldn’t. The incarnation reaffirms the creation event, showing us that being male or female is part of what it means to be human, and therefore Jesus had only one sex, not a mixture of the two.
Is Jesus an example to both males and females? Yes of course. His identity and purpose goes far beyond his sex as male. He is the savior and leader and teacher and Lord and King for all of us, male and female.
If our God was willing to become a human, but to be only one sex, and not some kind of mix, then why are we trying to do something different? God himself, who doesn’t have sex in his divinity, did not reject the binary when it came to the incarnation. So why should we? God himself, who doesn’t have sex in his divinity, was willing to be limited to one sex in the incarnation, so why do we feel like we can go beyond God and not limit ourselves to one sex in our lives today?
Jesus was the perfect human being, with no faults and no sins, and he was a man. He had a sex. Does this mean that men are better than women? Of course not. In the incarnation, he had to be born a boy or girl, one of the two, but just because he was born as a boy, doesn’t mean men are more important. Perhaps he was born as a boy because in that time, teachers and leaders and kings were men. But again, Jesus was the perfect human being, and he was a human being who had a definitive sex/gender. If we want to be like Jesus, we will learn to be content with the sex/gender that we were born as, and not strive to be something different.
This Christmas, take some time to slow down and ponder the wonderful beauty of the incarnation and all that it affirms about our humanity.
Clarification – Some people might read this and argue with me and say that although biologically Jesus was male, in his nature and person he exhibited the best traits of masculinity and femininity. I agree with this only because I think our definitions of masculinity and femininity are sometimes incorrect. If we take the traditional definitions of masculinity and femininity, it’s true that Jesus exhibited the best of both. But when I look at the Bible I don’t see such traditional definitions of masculinity and femininity. For example, the fruit of the Spirit, like love, joy, peace, gentleness, kindness etc. would be, by traditional definition, “feminine traits” but I think they are human traits not feminine traits. This is not to say that there are not differences between men and women in their temperaments, but it’s wrong to view a trait like “love” as either masculine or feminine. I think Jesus was a man in every way, including in his personality. Some emotions or aspects of his person that we might see as masculine or feminine are in fact just human emotions. Jesus was not some kind of androgynous mixture being in his gender nor in his sex.