This blog post was first delivered as a spoken sermon during a mid-week Advent series called Christian symbols. Isaiah 7, Romans 5:12-21, and Matthew 1:18-25 was read first.
The third symbol we’re looking at today is the Saints Symbol! I think that is what most readily comes to mind for most of us Americans – The NFL is one of our national religions, after all. And when it comes to football fans there is no more a religious group than those that root for the New Orleans Saints!
The symbol however predates the football team.
This symbol is called the Fleu De Lis. That is a French name that means Flower of the Lily. It is a symbol of the French Royalty! For the French Monarch it is to represent perfection, light, and life. Louisiana the state and New Orleans the city have deep French roots – hence the symbol for the NFL team.
The Fleur De Lis is said to be a Lily, while some say it is originally supposed to be an Iris. Lily’s are white and this flower has a strong connection to Mary – the mother of Jesus our Lord. Mary in classical art is often depicted with a white Lily in her hand! This white lily is to represent and signify her purity and chastity.
There is also a link to the Trinity – Three Petals – that are white for purity and holiness – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Both of these Christian connections to the Fleur de Lis serve well for us in our Advent season leading up to Christmas.
The Virgin Mary conceived the Son of God by the Holy Spirit whose Father is God! Here in the Christmas narrative, the birth of Jesus Christ, we have both images of the Fleur de Lis front and center – The Virgin Mary and the Trinity.
It is of course through this miraculous, supernatural conception that Jesus, the eternally begotten Son of God entered the world. His entrance revealed must explicitly that God is Triune. The revelation of the multi-person nature of God was present in the Old Testament, but revealed directly and plainly in the conception of Jesus and later at his Baptism and later still through Jesus’ public teachings!
The virgin birth is so central to Christmas – without it – there would be no Christmas. There would be no Christ. There would be no Christianity. There would be no salvation. Because of this great goodness for man that comes through the virgin conception, it is no surprise that the teaching of the virgin conception is under attack.
Comedians make jokes about the virgin birth – Some girl gets pregnant out of wedlock and goes, “Surprise, God did it.” And heathens laugh.
Religions completely redefine it. I’ll give just one example. Within Mormonism, Elohim (the name Mormons give to God the Father) came down in human form and impregnated the virgin Mary. She was a virgin who had actual sex with God – thus having a natural conception though be it by God. She was a virgin who lost her virginity to God, and God the Father has a human body in this imaginative retelling.
Sociologists and Psychologists claim the virgin conception is a myth – an ancient and repeating myth. They point across cultures and see this recurring phenomenon. One example is that of the Buddha – born in India, it is said that the Buddha came into his mother’s womb as a white elephant during a dream! However… she wasn’t a virgin. She was already married and the marriage consummated.
And a growing number of confessing Christians might shrug and say it doesn’t really matter if it happened as a virgin conception or not. What matters they will say is that people believe in Jesus, or that might just say that the peace, love, and light that the Christmas narrative symbolizes is what is important. And for the more conservative, yet loosey-goosey Christian, it would be said that what matters most is that he died and rose from the grave for our sins. However… if we can’t trust and accept the virgin conception because it defies our known reality and functioning of biological procreation then what else must we doubt or remove from Scripture? All of it would be my response and that’s the response we see the doubters [or their kids!] eventually taking.
With God, all things are possible – including a virgin conception and birth. When one embraces the revelation that God created all things out of nothing through his speaking them into existence, it becomes rather child’s play to consider a virgin conception.
Again and again in Scripture, we see that all humans are by nature sinners. Again and again in Scripture, this inherited sin is credited to Adam! It is not credited to Adam and Eve, or even to Eve, but it is always credited to Adam, just as we saw in Romans 5. Adam is the one whose sin is to blame for all of us being sinners by nature. From Adam until Jesus, every man and woman came from a human father and was sinful by nature. Jesus broke that pattern.
“Just as Adam produced Woman without a woman, the Virgin produced the Second Adam without a man.”
― Atom Tate
Scripture does not directly say this, but it appears as if the sin gene is passed on through the father’s seed. Jesus had no earthly father.
Jesus’ humanity came from his mother. Jesus’ divinity was his from the very beginning, though in his assumption of a human nature, God is his eternal Father and he was conceived by the Holy Spirit. This is mind-boggling and Scripture doesn’t answer all of our questions, but again… with God, all things are possible and we believe by faith.
In his names, given to him, we see the importance of the virgin birth.
Emmanuel – God with us. Of course, he is God with us. He was born of a virgin! He must be God with us.
Jesus – The Lord Saves. Because he is God with us, he is the one who can do what we cannot do for ourselves. He is here to save us from our sins.
Whenever you see the Saints symbol, now you have a lot more to think about besides, “Who dat?” Saints fans will get that.