The Miracles, Mystery, Magic, the Messiah…
I am a fan of Christmas! I can’t claim to be Christmas’ number one fan because I suspect there are probably millions of number one fans of Christmas. Over the years Christmas for me has gone from Christmas trees, decorations, Santa Claus, and toys to miracles, mystery, magic, and the Messiah. However, I have to admit that Christmas trees, decorations, Santa Claus, and toys are still a big part of my Christmas celebration and I hope they always will.
For the first time in my life the connection between Jesus’ birth and the Four M’s of Christmas have never impacted me as powerfully as they have this Christmas. In fact before tonight the concept of the Four M’s never entered my Christmas Theology and will no doubt continue to grow as I go about expanding what only a few minutes ago were just 4 words.
At this point in my thinking when I first envisioned the Four M’s and then typed them in my computer I thought I’d done so in random order but the more I think about them and the process I am convinced the order is not random but is a overlapping progression. The first one is Miracles. One of the primary misleading notions of miracles is their uncommonness. My desire in this part is to dispel their uncommonness but not at the expense of their magnificence, their super naturalness, nor their divinity. In a recent Glory Seed Devotional I wrote about miracles.
Christmas is a time of miracles but who determines whether a miracle is a miracle? Is there a book somewhere that lists all the miracles we can turn to? Is the bible that book? Can we open up a web browser type “miracle” in the search window and get an extensive list of miracles? While there are many places that attempt to define miracles or may contain only a partial list miracles are in the “eye” of the recipient.
Even though I am a recipient of many miracles I am no expert at defining what they are or what they are not but over the years I have determined God is the ultimate source of miracles they can divided into two areas, God initiated miracles (ones that come directly from God) and God inspired miracles (ones that come to us from God but through human contact). Some even have their origin in both, at the top of my list is LOVE. God loves me directly through my relationship with Jesus and he also loves me indirectly through my wife Patti and all my other loved ones.
“Lord my God, you have done many miracles. Your plans for us are many. If I tried to tell them all, there would be too many to count.” (Psalm 40:5, NCV) As you read today’s advent prayer count how many miracles you can attest to. “Oh, Jesus who descended from Jesse, you are a sign of God’s love. I feel hopeful and expectant, filled with a rebirth of joy and love. I depend you so much. You are a rock for my belief and a sign of God’s love. Fill me with your praise! I want to sing your glory, filled with joy for the message of hope you send. I don’t always understand when you are acting on my behalf. Thank you for the message of hope you send me. Give me true faith and love as I celebrate the mystery of how you came to be with us.”** (I can attest to at least 18 miracles.)
And the greatest miracle of all! “God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son so that whoever believes in him may not be lost, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NCV) Christmas is a season for miracles however they are not exclusively a Christmas gift they’re God’s way of saying I love you every day!
When it comes to miracles two words come to my mind anticipate and believe. For example Luke wrote of the anticipated Messiah. “John’s two disciples found Jesus and said to him, “John the Baptist sent us to ask, ‘Are you the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?’” (Luke 7:20, NLT) And a few verses later he wrote of Jesus’ message urging John the Baptist to believe. “Then he told John’s disciples, “Go back to John and tell him what you have seen and heard—the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. And tell him, ‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.’ ”” (Luke 7:22–23, NLT)
As I stated earlier miracles are God’s way of saying I love you. Miracles are God’s way of fulfilling the needs we are unable to fulfill ourselves. They are God breaking the infinite/finite barrier in response to His compassion, love, and grace. They can be as simple as finding your car keys in an emergency or as wonderful as healing someone of cancer. This morning I went to Planet Fitness where for 30 minutes I walked on a treadmill at 2.2 miles an hour pain free. For me after 6 hips surgeries on each hip, quadruple heart artery bypass surgery, a heart attack, a stent implant, and pulmonary fibrosis that is a miracle. And no one will tell me it isn’t a miracle because it wasn’t that long ago I couldn’t even walk across the room without a great deal of pain.
I know miracles existed long before Christmas but for me it is out of the miracle of Jesus’ birth they became personalized for me. The miracles of Christmas began with the miraculous conception of both John the Baptist and Jesus and continued with the Angel visit to Joseph, Jesus’ earthly father. But it is Jesus’ birthplace where the “Gary personalized miracle” really becomes a guiding and sustaining power in my life. The following quote from Creighton University Online Ministries Website brings the miracle of the manger to life and has forever deepened my belief in miracles and in Jesus.
Reflections on the Manger**
The Mystery Revealed to Us in the Hay
An ox knows its owner, and an ass, its master’s manger; But Israel does not know, my people has not understood. – Isaiah 1:2
The story of the birth of Jesus, as told to us by Luke, is full of joy in the midst of great conflict and sadness – even irony and rejection. It prepares us for the scandal of the cross by helping us see, in such a beautifully told story, that Jesus’ mission is revealed to us, in how he came to us – in poverty and humiliation. There, in the hay, we begin to know. There, in the manger, we begin to understand. Our God is revealed to us by coming in the lowliest of possible places. It is a meditation for our whole lives. This story is here to bring us light in the midst of any darkness, poverty, rejection, emptiness, sinfulness we experience. By reminding us of where he comes, the Good News is also a revelation of who we are. We are the “people who walk in darkness.” We are people who experience parts of our lives as dry and unwelcoming as that hay. We are people who, on our own, not only fail to know and understand; we are capable of tremendous infidelity and stubborn independence.
We get our word “manger” from the Latin (and so French, Italian, Spanish) root, which means simply “to eat.” Jesus comes, into the greatest place of our poverty, not only to be “with us” but to nourish us. The manger can be the place we go this Christmas to be fed with the acceptance, love, and peace we need. There is no place of darkness in which we need ever feel alone. There is no situation, no loss, no tragedy that need ever leave us empty. There is no sin, no matter how selfish that will ever leave us apart from God’s love.
We have prayed, “Come, Lord Jesus. Come and visit your people. We await your coming. Come, O Lord.” Now, our eyes are opened to the wondrous joy of his coming to us in that manger 2,000 years ago, so that we will know and understand his coming to us in our hunger today, and ultimately so that we will long for his final coming to bring us to the banquet that has been prepared, to fill all our longing.
It hasn’t been that long ago when I understood miracles were for everyone but me and my family. I remember many years ago talking with the woman who worked in the office with me telling me about the miracles God bestowed on her and her family, “Why doesn’t that happen to us God?” I silently prayed. And yet I failed to see the multiple day-to-day miracles God was pouring into our lives. But after this that won’t happen again not that at times I won’t miss some now and then but my “miracles are not for my family” belief is a thing of the past.
Just because we may fall on hard times does not mean God has stopped pouring miracles into our lives! In fact during those times God steps up and intensifies them and all we need to do is to discover them is to look through the fog of adversity. It is when we see through the fog that miracles begin to reveal their mystery.
Grace and PEACE,
**“Quoted from Creighton University’s Online Ministries web site: http://onlineministries.creighton.edu/CollaborativeMinistry/online.html. Used with permission.”
“Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.”
“Scriptures quoted from The Holy Bible, New Century Version, copyright © 1987, 1988, 1991 by Word Publishing, Dallas, Texas 75039. Used by permission.”