Even if pulpits have been taken from the center of many sanctuaries within recent years, preaching is still holy business. Luther was not incorrect in calling it sacramental. Theologians Barth and Farmer, among others, have rightly urged a high view of this holy task.

Not because in preaching we have a chance to moralize a bit. Not because in it we can serve our peanut philosophies, half-baked or well. It is not these things that make preaching holy business. But it is a task cut off from other kinds of work because in it we confront sinful men with Jesus Christ. Daniel Jenkins goes so far as to say, “No sermon is ultimately possible which does not start from what God has done for his people in Christ” (Tradition, Freedom, and the Spirit, Westminster, 1951). We confront them, for one thing, with that deed done for us at Bethlehem.

A highly-favored virgin is selected for unending honor. Isaiah had said it would be so, and it is. She conceives by the Holy Ghost and gives birth to Jesus the Christ.

Nels Ferre thinks the account strange and offers a possible substitute story of his own—one in which there is no mystery, no miracle, not even a moral element. Brunner also quite denies the account in order to make room, as he says, for believing in the Incarnation by faith.

Yet in this way, through birth by a virgin, God entered into our humanity. By this means he got a footing on the hard earth by which to lift us out of sin. A heartbeat away—no more than that. That is how near the God of the Incarnation is to men. No other religion makes such a claim as this—that God was born into our world, a man among men; that he is even now touched by the agony of our infirmities.

At Pentecost, Peter established this “enmanment” before going on ...

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