“Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14
“Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.” Matthew 1:23
Christmas is a beautiful time of year: the lights, the trees, the ornaments, the smiles on faces, the hopes in the eyes of children and adults alike. It’s full of anticipation, expectation, and often the hope that maybe this year will be different. Maybe this Christmas season, there will be more under the tree. Maybe the rent will be paid on time. Maybe the neighbors will be friendlier. Maybe our friends will take more time for us. Maybe prince charming will appear. Maybe there will be less strife in our home. Maybe—just maybe—there will be some kind of Christmas Miracle.
We hear it around us all the time, especially if you watch many Christmas movies. “Christmas is the season for Miracles,” they tell us. “A time when anything can happen. Hope beyond what you would normally hope because of the Christmas magic in the air.” But, when the season is over and our expectations go unmet, we struggle to weigh the differences between what we’ve been told and reality.
Some may become cynical, deciding there’s nothing to this Christmas Miracle junk anyway. Others may choose a sudden shift in their priorities, telling themselves that what they’d hoped for isn’t that important anyway. They were with people they care about, and that is what matters. Some may walk away discouraged, never thinking it through, but carrying a profound weight of disappointment throughout the year and into the next Christmas season. Then they hope again, find themselves disappointed again, and repeat the process. Others dare to ask,
“Is Christmas a season of miracles? Why do we say that it is? What in the past causes us to bring forward this belief—this hope and expectation—year after year? How can I avoid the disappointment? How can I keep on believing?”
The Thing About The Past
The celebration of Christmas really is rooted in miracles. Think about it:
- We celebrate the birth of a son to a barren, elderly couple,
- The individual appearance of multiple angels,
- The host of angels appearing to the shepherds,
- The appearance of a star to the wise men,
- The deliverance of the wise men and Mary and Joseph from the murderous intentions of the king,
- The coming of God in the form of a baby.
If these are not miracles, then what is?
The idea that Christmas is a time for miracles is not far-fetched when you look at its origin. That first Christmas pretty much takes the “Season for Miracles” prize. So should we expect miracles now? Or did those end with the birth of Christ?
Missed Miracles and Misplaced Hope
Miracles did not stop happening when the wise men went home. But the nature of miracles may have changed. God does not frequently send his angels to appear openly, in full glory, as He did that year Jesus was born. That does not mean, however, that they don’t still appear. The writer of Hebrews tells us to entertain, or show hospitality to, strangers because they might be angels.
Look back over that paragraph. Notice the period in which the miracles occurred. It wasn’t the day or week Jesus was born. It wasn’t the month Jesus was born but rather the year. The Christmas story fits nicely into four chapters of the Bible, and we tend to think of it as one event. We need to look a little closer.
We don’t know how much time passed between the time Zacharias spoke with Gabriel and the time he went home to be with his wife, but according to Luke 1, Elisabeth was in her sixth month when Mary came to visit. The passage doesn’t tell how far along Mary was in her own pregnancy, but it seems to imply that she went to Elisabeth soon after the angel appeared to her.
Six plus nine is fifteen, right?
That means these events stretched over nearly a year and a half. Most Bible scholars believe the wise men came when Jesus about two years old, which lengthens this season of miracles into a three and a half year period. Ironically, this is about the same length as Jesus’ earthly ministry.
Is it possible, that we misplace our expectations, putting everything into a period of days, when God Himself sets a pattern of working things out over months and even years?
Are we missing the miracles He does in the other eleven months of the year?
Do we keep our eyes open during those other months? Do we expect anything from Him then? Or do we just do everything on our own?
Do we see the way He protects us from near accidents everyday on the roads? Do we see the way He provides for us? Do we see the little blessings He gives us each day?
The Miracle Maker
Modern Christmas is a bit deceptive when it comes to the source of the miracles. As a culture we get caught up in the ideas of the Christmas Spirit, Christmas Magic, and, yes, Santa Claus. But none of these are rooted in truth, and none of them are the source of the miracles we seek at Christmas time. Not to be a Scrooge, but if you look it up, St. Nicholas passed away on December 6th, 343 AD. There is no evidence of his resurrection. He is not the Miracle Maker.
Jesus, on the other hand, did rise from the dead, and many people saw Him after His resurrection. We’re looking in the wrong place—to the wrong source—for our miracles.
God had a host of miracles planned for that first Season of Miracles, but He didn’t do them all “in person,” so to speak. He had a special agent, Gabriel. We often think of the angels as part of the miracle, but they were just the messengers. God announced His work through them.
In our waiting and hoping for a miracle for ourselves, it’s easy to miss that God may want us to be His agents. He may have a task for you or me that seems simple and straightforward and unimportant, but that task might be someone else’s miracle. He just might use us to answer their prayer. If our eyes are so fixed on receiving the miracle we hope for, we may miss the opportunity.
The Greatest Miracle
Today’s tiny portion of the Messiah expresses the greatest miracle of the Christmas season. Not that a virgin conceived—though that is worthy of our awe and astonishment—but rather that God came to be with us. The Creator of the Universe left heaven and squeezed all of that glory, power, wisdom, knowledge, and grace into a tiny mass of human flesh. The greatest miracle was found in that tiny, burial-garment swaddled baby, lying in the feed trough. It was Jesus. Our Emmanuel.
So this Christmas Season, instead of looking for our miracle, let’s rejoice in the miracles of that first Season of Miracles. Let’s stand in awe of the virgin birth, the barren womb made to bear, the voiceless father, the angels, the star, and the host of prophesies fulfilled in that day.
Let’s purpose to fix our hearts and our gaze on the true Miracle Maker—God Almighty.
Let’s determine to watch throughout this next year for His working in ALL seasons.
Let’s keep our hearts ready and listening, so WE can be His agents in the miracle someone else needs.
And let’s celebrate the greatest miracle ever: that God came, lived, died, and rose again to give us life and to give it abundantly.
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