There’s a certain glow that comes with Christmastime–a soft-focus lens on the world that is suddenly strung with warmly hued lights. The air seems suddenly scented with pine, and we all breathe a little fuller in the crisp cleanness of it. Carols ring around us, Bing Crosby’s velvety baritone proclaiming “in the air, there’s a feeling of Christmas.” People greet one another with festive good cheer, and our hearts grow with love for all of our fellow human beings.
It’s an illusion, of course–a Hollywoodesque production of a holiday season in which we aspire to something greater than ourselves. Like a child listening intently for the gentle paw of reindeer hooves on the roof, we want to believe in the magic of Christmas. And sometimes we find it. Those moments of Yuletide perfection where the world itself seems to still in its constant revolving and we feel something–some joy or love or peace or hope that has been buried deep within our souls. And we give thanks, ascribing it to some sort of ethereal holiday being–Dickens’s Ghost of Christmas Present, perhaps. But it’s not magic that brings us joy or love or peace or hope this season. It’s a miracle. And that is what we, God’s people, are called to celebrate.
There’s a big difference between magic and miracle. Magic is a practical art–a learned skill used to confound, delight, and even awe. Based in mystery, magic is illusory. And a good magician never reveals her tricks. In contrast, a miracle is a divine encounter. While it can be mysterious, it is not shrouded in mystery. A miracle is a revelation–God revealing Godself to humanity in a way that no human being could ever replicate. When we experience a miracle, we know it can only come from God. It’s not magic, it’s divine.
The Christmas story is a miracle. God sent a part of his Triune self into the world to redeem all of humanity. He sent his son, not as a mighty warrior, but as a helpless babe, to live among us. God came to experience all of humanity, from start to finish, and to gather it all back. As 1 John says, God sent his son to give us life. He used the miracle of the virgin birth to deliver a miracle to all of humanity, and he did it because he loves us. God loves us. God loves me. God loves you. So much so that he made his dwelling among us. That’s the miracle.
But there’s another miracle to the Christmas story, and it’s one that takes us beyond the cradle to the cross, as Jesus, God’s voice, the one who spoke all of creation into being, sacrifices his life so that we might live. And, oh, what life we are given! In miracle upon miracle, Jesus doesn’t stay on that cross. He doesn’t make his home in the grave. He rises from the tomb, he rolls the stone away, and in doing so, Jesus casts off the shackles of death for all of us, offering life eternal to all who call on his name! It’s not magic, it’s a miracle. God, through Jesus, triumphs over the grave. And in doing so, God makes a path for us to triumph over death, too.
As John writes:
This, then, is what we are to revel in during the Christmas season. Not magic. But miracle. How can we not share this good news? How can we not, like the shepherds, run through the streets proclaiming this miracle of all miracles? Love has come. Salvation has come. Life has come. This Christmas, as we gather with our friends and family, as we deck the halls, as we bake cookies and watch Hallmark movies, as we carol and revel, as we wrap presents and stuff stockings….let’s take some time to remember the miracle. And let’s look, really look, not for Christmas magic, but for the miracle of God With Us.
Blessings and Peace,