Summary: What would you be left with if you took the miraculous out of the Christmas Story
Christmas Eve 2006
The miracle of the Incarnation
It is hard to come up with something new to say about the Christmas story – that we all know so well.
So I’d like to take a different tack this year and consider what would we be left with if we took the miraculous out of the Gospels.
So what then is a miracle?
The Scottish atheistic philosopher David Hulme defined a miracle as
“a violation of the laws of nature.”
But that supposes the Laws of nature are inviolate.
I think a better definition of a miracle is the direct intervention of God into the affairs of men.
That would cover events that we cannot explain and unexplained beings such as Angels
Now what would happen if we took the miraculous events and persons out of the Biblical account of Christmas?
1. The Old Testament Prophecies of Jesus birth
First of all, we would have to drop the Old Testament prophecies concerning Jesus’ birth, his life and his death from the Christmas story.
2. The New Testament Prophecies recorded in Luke 1
Then we would have to drop the prophecies recorded in Luke 1
Firstly, the story of the foretelling of the birth of John the Baptist
You may recall the story of John’s father Zechariah the priest meeting the angel Gabriel.
Gabriel prophesied that Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth were going to have a child.
But as Elizabeth was past the age of child bearing, Zechariah just couldn’t believe it possible.
As a result he was struck dumb until the actual birth of John occurred.
But if we decided to take out the miraculous then this story is out.
Then the story of the foretelling of the birth of Jesus would have to go
You may recall the story of the angel coming to Mary and foretelling the birth of Jesus.
If we take the miraculous away, this all falls away
Next if we take the miraculous out of the Christmas story we lose
The story of the Shepherds and the Angels in Luke 2:8-20
After all, it was the angels – God’s messengers – who told the Shepherds about the birth of Christ. And angels as unexplainable persons are out!
Then we would follow that by removing the Story of the Wise men
No special star moving from the East (the wise men probably came from Babylon about 1000 miles from Jerusalem) to herald the birth of Christ.
So that’s out
And so all we are left with is the story in Luke 2:1-7 of an ordinary pregnant peasant girl Mary giving an ordinary birth to an ordinary baby in an
ordinary stable of an ordinary Inn in an ordinary village called Bethlehem.
And who would care – what’s important about that baby then? There have been thousands like him before and after
But the most important part of the Christmas story that we would lose - if we demythologise the Christmas story - would be that we would lose the story of the Incarnation.
That is God becoming a man.
2.3 The Incarnation
Because the biggest miracle of the Christmas story is the fact that GOD himself came and lived among us.
In his best-selling book, The Jesus I Never Knew, Philip Yancey wrote this:
“I learned about incarnation when I kept a salt-water aquarium. Management of a marine aquarium, I discovered, is no easy task.
I had to run a portable chemical laboratory to monitor the nitrate levels and the ammonia content.
I pumped in vitamins and antibiotics and sulpha drugs and enough enzymes to make a rock grow.
I filtered the water through glass fibres and charcoal, and exposed it to ultraviolet light.
You would think, in view of all the energy expended on their behalf, that my fish would at least be grateful.
Not so. Every time my shadow loomed above the tank they dived for cover into the nearest shell.
They showed one ‘emotion’ only: fear.
Although I opened the lid and dropped in food on a regular schedule, three times a day, they responded to each visit as a sure sign of my designs to torture them.
I could not convince them of my true concern.
“To my fish I was deity. I was too large for them, my actions too incomprehensible. My acts of mercy they saw as cruelty; my attempts at healing they viewed as destruction.
To change their perceptions, I began to see, would require a form of incarnation.
I would have to become a fish and ‘speak’ to them in a language they could understand.”
And I would suggest we would have a similar relationship to God without the incarnation of God in Jesus.
Take Islam for example that denies the deity of Christ. Islam is ruled by fear not by love.