Summary: Some try to portray Christmas as just an event, but what happens when we take the miracles out of Christmas?
Have you ever heard the phrase “The Magic of Christmas”? Probably, if you google that phrase you get almost 29,000,000 hits. Everything ranging from albums of Christmas music to campaigns to provide toys to underprivileged children, to children’s books, to more inspirational plaques than you can count. It was Norman Vincent Peale who wrote “Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.”
What people are talking about isn’t the hocus pocus, Harry Potter type of magic, instead it is the soft fuzzy emotional type of magic that is a feeling.
This morning we aren’t talking about magic, but we are talking about miracles. And there are some folks who would like to take the miracles out of Christmas, they would do away with the miraculous and instead hand us an event that could happen without the hand of God being evident throughout it. And if that is the case then Christmas is just an event, hardly worth remembering let alone celebrating 2000 years later.
So this morning I’m not trying to convince you of the realities of miracles, after all it was Nancy Gibbs is an editor and writer for Time magazine who summed it up when she wrote “For the truly faithful, no miracle is necessary. For those who doubt, no miracle is sufficient.”
Instead, this morning I simply want to tell you what we would lose if we had a Christmas without miracles.
So, this morning let’s not start at the beginning, but six months before the beginning where we read the story of a couple named Zacharias and Elizabeth. What we know about this couple is that Elizabeth was related to Mary the Mother of Christ and that Zacharias was a priest and his wife was from a family of priests. And we know that they were childless, not by choice but by chance, a tragedy for most folks who it happened to but for a priest it was a double tragedy in that there would be no son to carry on his priestly responsibilities.
And we know that they were older, again how old? We don’t know, old enough to be mentioned, but perhaps because it was in relation to their child bearing years maybe it was just relative, maybe they were old in their late forties or early fifties. Not sure.
The story happens on a day while Zacharias was performing his priestly functions. By this time in history there were more priests than there were jobs for priests, so they took turns working in the temple, good work if you can find it. And Zechariah’s turn came up and he was chosen to enter into the temple and offer the sacrifices and while he was in there the strangest thing happened.
He’s doing the things he supposed to be doing, preparing the sacrifice, getting it ready to be offered, preparing his prayers and the scriptures he would read as part of the ceremony and God interrupts him, with an angel.
And Zechariah was a little spooked; actually he was a lot spooked. After all he was supposed to be alone in the altar area, there were no windows just lit by flickering torches, maybe he’s whistling as he worked. And all of a sudden he’s no longer alone. I don’t think he was spooked because there was an angel there, I think he was spooked because there was anyone there.
And if we read through the conversation the Angel, who identifies himself as Gabriel, I know don’t get me started, tells Zechariah that his and his wife’s prayers are going to be answered that they will be parents and that their son will do great things for God.
And after the angel drops this bombshell, I mean good news, on Zechariah he gets this response; “What?” Actually that was a rough translation his actually words were Luke 1:18 Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.”
My wife is well along in years, that charitable, love how it is put in the King James Version Luke 1:18 And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years. Guys just a hint, not sure that “well stricken in years” is the most appropriate way to describe your wife’s age.
You got to love this, for years Zechariah and Elizabeth had prayed for a son, They had been praying so long it had become rote and I don’t think they really expected it would be answered and had never stopped to consider what would happen if it was answered, there would be diapers to buy, a house to be baby proofed and they’d have to get a baby seat for the camel.