God Out­does Him­self

Eight mir­a­cles of the first Christ­mas

Activated - - FRONT PAGE - By Sa­muel Keat­ing

The baby’s first cry rings out, the um­bil­i­cal cord is cut, and the proud par­ents and ev­ery­one else present—whether it’s an ob­ste­tri­cian and at­ten­dants in a gleam­ing hospi­tal or a tribal mid­wife in a thatched hut—re­joice at the won­der they have just wit­nessed. The birth of Je­sus on the first Christ­mas was all of that, but also in­volved at least eight more mir­a­cles.

An­gelic Pro­nounce­ment

To be­gin with, Je­sus’ birth was an­nounced be­fore He was even con­ceived. “God sent the an­gel Gabriel to the town of Nazareth in Galilee with a mes­sage for a vir­gin named Mary. She was en­gaged to Joseph from the fam­ily of King David. The an­gel greeted Mary and said, ‘You are truly blessed! The Lord is with you.’ Then the an­gel told Mary, ‘Don’t be afraid! God is pleased with you, and you will have a son. His name will be Je­sus.’”

1 Mir­a­cle num­ber one.

Mirac­u­lous Con­cep­tion— Times Two

It is, of course, one of the best-known and most out­stand­ing mir­a­cles that at the time of Je­sus’ con­cep­tion His mother, Mary, was a vir­gin. The Bi­ble is very clear on that:

“Mary asked the an­gel, ‘But how can I have a baby? I am a vir­gin.’ The an­gel replied, ‘The Holy Spirit shall come upon you, and the power of God shall over­shadow you; so the baby born to you will be ut­terly holy—the Son of God.’”

2 This event was fore­told 700 years ear­lier by the prophet Isa­iah: “The Lord Him­self will give you a sign: Be­hold, the vir­gin shall con­ceive

and bear a Son, and shall call His name Im­manuel [‘God is with us,’ in He­brew].” In ev­ery sense, Je­sus 3 is the Son of God. Mir­a­cle num­ber two.

Gabriel also told Mary that her cousin El­iz­a­beth, who had been bar­ren and was now past child­bear­ing age, would give birth to a son: “El­iz­a­beth your rel­a­tive has also con­ceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called bar­ren. For with God noth­ing will be im­pos­si­ble.” 4 El­iz­a­beth gave birth to a boy who grew up to be John the Baptist. Every­thing hap­pened ex­actly as Gabriel had an­nounced. Mir­a­cle 5 num­ber three.

An­gelic Con­fir­ma­tion

What about Joseph, Mary’s fi­ancé? What was he to think when Mary re­turned from vis­it­ing El­iz­a­beth and he found out that she was three months preg­nant? As can be ex­pected, his first re­ac­tions were mixed. “Joseph, to whom she was en­gaged, was a right­eous man and did not want to dis­grace her pub­licly, so he de­cided to break the en­gage­ment qui­etly.” 6

Joseph wanted to spare Mary hu­mil­i­a­tion and pos­si­ble death—the pun­ish­ment for adul­tery un­der Jewish law7—but we can imag­ine the pain he must have felt, be­liev­ing that his be­trothed was bear­ing an­other man’s child.

That’s when God sent an an­gel to Joseph also, as much to re­as­sure and com­fort him as to clar­ify the sit­u­a­tion, no doubt. “An an­gel of the Lord ap­peared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, be­cause what is con­ceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Je­sus, be­cause he will save his peo­ple from their sins.’ 8 When Joseph woke up, he did what the an­gel of the Lord had com­manded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not con­sum­mate their mar­riage un­til she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Je­sus.” Mir­a­cle num­ber four. 9

Place of Birth

It was also a mirac­u­lous ful­fill­ment of an Old Tes­ta­ment prophecy that Je­sus was born in Beth­le­hem, since His par­ents lived in Nazareth, some days’ jour­ney away. “Beth­le­hem Ephrath, you are one of the small­est towns in the na­tion of Ju­dah. But the Lord will choose one of your peo­ple to rule the na­tion.”

10 The Ro­man em­peror Au­gus­tus Cae­sar had de­creed that an em­pire-wide cen­sus should be taken, and Jewish tra­di­tion re­quired that for any such busi­ness each man re­turn to the place that he con­sid­ered his an­ces­tral home. For Joseph, a di­rect de­scen­dant of King David, that

meant re­turn­ing to Beth­le­hem with his preg­nant wife, and she gave birth to Je­sus shortly af­ter they ar­rived. Mir­a­cle num­ber five.

An­gelic An­nounce­ment

Shep­herds keep­ing watch over their sheep on the hill­sides sur­round­ing Beth­le­hem were vis­ited by an an­gel, who told them, “‘Do not be afraid, for be­hold, I bring you good tid­ings of great joy which will be to all peo­ple. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Sav­ior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swad­dling cloths, ly­ing in a manger.’ And sud­denly there was with the an­gel a mul­ti­tude of the heav­enly host prais­ing God and say­ing: ‘Glory to God in the high­est, and on earth peace, good­will to­ward men!’”

11 The shep­herds left their flocks and went to Beth­le­hem, where they found the Mes­siah ex­actly as the an­gel had told them. “Af­ter see­ing him, the shep­herds told ev­ery­one what had hap­pened and what the an­gel had said to them about this child.” What this means is that,

12 from day one of His life on earth, there were peo­ple tes­ti­fy­ing to the fact that the Mes­siah had come at last. Mir­a­cle num­ber six.

Sign in the Heav­ens

Wise men (ac­cord­ing to tra­di­tion there were three, but the Bi­ble doesn’t spec­ify how many) from the East (the Bi­ble also doesn’t spec­ify where in the East, but pos­si­bly Ara­bia, Per­sia, Baby­lon, or even as far away as In­dia) ob­served an un­usual oc­cur­rence in the heav­ens, which they in­ter­preted to sig­nify the birth of the “King of the Jews,” and they went to wor­ship Him.

Travel in those days was dif­fi­cult and slow, and based on other Scrip­tures, it may have taken the wise men up to two years of prepa­ra­tion and travel be­fore they ar­rived in Judea and gave their gifts to Je­sus. “Be­hold, the star which they had seen in the East went be­fore them, till it came and stood over the house where the young Child was. When they saw the star, they re­joiced with ex­ceed­ingly great joy. And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and wor­shiped Him. And when they had opened their trea­sures, they pre­sented gifts to Him: gold, frank­in­cense, and myrrh.” 13 Mir­a­cle num­ber seven.

Best by Far

The supreme mir­a­cle of Christ­mas, how­ever, is not about an­gels or wise men or a sign in the sky. It’s about God’s only be­got­ten Son tak­ing on the form of a weak, help­less baby in or­der to un­der­stand and sym­pa­thize with us in a unique way through all that He suf­fered and ex­pe­ri­enced, and to even­tu­ally die for you and me. “God has given us eter­nal life, and this life is found in his Son.” 14

1. Luke 1:26–28,30–31 CEV

2. Luke 1:34–35 TLB

3. Isa­iah 7:14

4. Luke 1:36–37

5. See Luke 1:5–25,57–66.

6. Matthew 1:19 NLT

7. See Deuteron­omy 22:13–14,21.

8. Je­sus is the Greek form of Joshua, which means The Lord saves.

9. Matthew 1:20–21,24–25 NIV

10. Micah 5:2 CEV

11. Luke 2:10–14

12. Luke 2:17 NLT

13. Matthew 2:9–11

14. 1 John 5:11 GW

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