Miracles abound in our ears this Christmas season. We hear of angels singing, a virgin birth, God becoming man, and manifestations of God's glory. The preaching of God's Word is rich with divine events. Yet our lives do not feel so miraculous or divine. We long for a sign of grace, something we can grasp.
This is supposed to be a time of joy, of welcoming family and celebrating the birth of the Lord, but we often feel empty inside. The world also does a Christmas song and dance, but does not experience true Christmas joy, because it does not receive the message of Christ. According to all accounts, depression is highest this time of year. Even the most satanic sin of self-murder is sadly more prevalent. Why does all this talk of joy get people down?
It can be a burden to live up to expectations and try to be happy. After all, sin does weigh this creation down, including our hearts and minds. Satan is actively attacking God's people and wants us to be without hope. What better way to do this than to give the impression that people should and must be joyful, but not actually give them something to be joyful about?
Miracles—God's direct action in this world—are what Christmas is about. But if they are merely historical markers from long ago, what is their relevance today? How does a baby born 2,000+ years ago help me? Martin Luther saw that the miracle of Christmas is not about Mary or Jesus only, it is about you. God came down to be your Savior and take away the sins that trouble you. This is the root of true joy, a joy that even this ruined world cannot take away.
Luther wrote: “The virgin birth is a mere trifle for God; that God should become man is a greater miracle; but most amazing of all is it that this maiden should credit the announcement that she, rather than some other virgin, has been chosen to be the mother of God” [The Martin Luther Christmas Book, ed. R. Bainton, 23]. Mary had faith that the boy she would give birth to was her salvation. God's Word was believed. She was a sinner of low standing looking forward to marriage, not a power-hungry royal queen. But the angel spoke to her—she would bear the promised Messiah. How preposterous that God would choose her, a lowly virgin, and not another woman? Not that she understood it fully, but she kept the divine word in her heart and did not let go. And this is truly a miracle. Faith is a divine thing, worked by the Spirit, so that as a result we partake of Christ's nature and are joined to His body. Sin is dead, because we died with Christ. This baby was born to die, so that we might live. And we live just like Mary did, by faith in the Word of God spoken to us. The Gospel is not just talk, it is true life for us. We are to live in it, just as in our baptism we die to sin and rise to life each day. Jesus' birth is ours, because of the sacrifice of His own body for us. We are incapable of doing good and coming to God. But Jesus came in weakness to us. He is received not by lighting candles or singing carols, but by trusting that He came and died for you. Your God Himself comforts you and makes you alive. This joy is not about how things look politically or personally, but the Savior who was born for us and still protects us until He comes again to glorify us. The Holy Spirit who conceived Jesus in Mary, conceives faith in us. He is given as a deposit of the resurrection to come.
So it is OK if there is no feeling of joy in you. Christ makes you new and brings you into Him. Leave the old behind. There is no joy in sin or rebelling against where the Lord places you. In Jesus there is no more striving to be something you are not, nor beating yourself up for not being holy before God. We are holy to God in faith now. The Law was placed on the neck of Jesus, even as a baby. He underwent all the pain and suffering we deserve. The miracle is that we believe Jesus is for us—that all the miracles we hear preached were done for us. This is how much God your Father cares about you. What Jesus did is credited to you. Faith receives the full righteousness of Christ and believes what seems impossible. Our holiness is not less preposterous than a virgin girl giving birth to the Son of God Himself.
Faith is the miracle that brings us Christ, so that we live in Him and His righteousness. It is not the doing away with the problems and cares of this world, rather it is dying to the old order of things and living a new life only to your God—just as Mary lived in the Word of God spoken by the angel. This is not just a one-time hope, nor is it just for a season. Every day on earth you are a Christmas miracle in faith. We have an eternal hope. Your joy is safe in heaven, in God's own heart. He will not reject you or punish you for failing to keep up appearances. He has spoken and His Word is final. We have a holy calling “which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” 2 Tim. 1:10.
Your Christmas preparations, family events, and feelings don't have to be divine. The miracle of Christmas is not what happens in your heart. It is in Jesus who was born helpless and submitted Himself to God's commands and our punishment. Jesus is our child, our very righteousness. By faith all He did is now ours. Jesus' righteous life is now yours, despite what things look like. The Gospel seems impossible, but consider Mary, who believed the good news and let God do the impossible for her. In faith we are as important and blessed as Mary. “For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother” Matt. 12:50. Treasure this in your heart as if an angel spoke it to you.
So we are in the position of Mary. The problem is not a lack of miracles—they abound in and around us. It is the reception of them and faith in them that is the Christmas conundrum of sinners. But your God spoke in Christ's life and speaks the meaning of those miracles for you today in promises on which you can rely. Mary was told she would be the mother of God. You are a child of the most high God by faith in the humble Jesus born in a stable.
-Pastor Hale