The Miracles of Christmas

December 23, 2012

Miracle on 34th Street
The Miracles of Christmas
If nothing else I am expanding my movie repertoire, I hadn’t
seen any of these movies prior to starting this series. I had seen bits and
pieces but never the entire movie.    Miracle on 34th Street begins at
the Macy Thanksgiving day parade when an Older bearded gentlemen discovers that
the man who is supposed to play Santa on the float is drunk, the inebriated
Santa  claims that it’s cold and he is
simply trying to stay warm.  However the
stranger reports him to the parade organizer, Doris Walker who in a panic
decides to replace him with the stranger.
Well, the new Santa does such a great job on the float that Doris
offers him the position of Santa at Macy’s department store where he dos a
wonderful job until management discovers that he calls himself Kris Kringle and
actually believes that he is Santa.   
Through the manipulation of the inept company psychologist
Kris is declared a danger to himself and others and is locked up in an
institution.  And it is up to Fred Gailey
a young lawyer who lives next door to Doris and her six year old daughter to
prove to the court that Kris isn’t insane but is actually Santa Claus. 
A few interesting tidbits about the Movie, it was released
in 1947, not at Christmas time, which would make sense but instead in May
because the head of the Studio felt that more people went to the movies in
May.  The fact that it was a Christmas
movie was kept a secret until the release. 
Here is the promotional cover the for the DVD’s today and here is the
poster from the original release. 
The opening scene of the movie, the Macy’s Thanksgiving
Parade was actually the 1946 parade, which was a challenge because it couldn’t
be reshot if there was an error.  And Edmund
Gwenn, the actor who played Kris Kringle was the Santa Claus in the Parade that
year.
Natalie Wood, who played Doris’s daughter Susan claims that
she actually thought Edmund Gwenn was Santa Claus during the production, it
wasn’t unit the end of the movie that she discovered he was just an actor. 
The movie won several Academy Awards that year and is
included in the list of the top ten inspirational films ever made.
When I mentioned the fact that
I was using the movie to one person they said “But it’s not about Christmas it’s
about Santa.”  No, what it is about is
faith and the ability to believe in the miraculous.  Or as Fred Gailey reminds us in the movie  “Faith is believing when common sense tells you not
to. Don’t you see? It’s not just Kris that’s on trial, it’s everything he
stands for. It’s kindness and joy and love and all the other intangibles.”  Which kind of sounds like Hebrews 11:1 Faith is the
confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance
about things we cannot see.
Sometimes I think we take Christmas for granted.  We have celebrated it for so long that we
have lost sight of the miraculous.  It
wasn’t an everyday event.  But have we we
lost sight of all that happened?  Has the
Miracle of Christmas simply become the story of Christmas? 
Let’s recap the Christmas Story.
 It all began 2000
years ago when an angel visited a young virgin in Israel.  The Angel tells this young girl named, Mary,
that she will become pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Another
angel appears to Mary’s fiancé a man named Joseph and assures him that Mary has
not been unfaithful despite evidence to the contrary.  That Angel confirms Mary’s story as to who
the father will be, God.
Before the Baby is born Mary and Joseph are required by a
governmental order to return to the town of Joseph’s ancestors, thereby
fulfilling a prophecy that had been made a thousand years before.   Once they arrive in the town of Bethlehem, Joseph and his extremely pregnant wife are unable
to find accommodations and so they end up spending the night in a stable full
of animals.  During the night Mary goes
into labour and has the child in the stable where he is laid in a manger to
sleep.
After Mary gives birth to her son even more angels appear to
shepherds who are tending their sheep in nearby fields.   These
angels tell the shepherds about the events that had happened in town and the
shepherds immediately left their flocks to fend for themselves while they go to
worship this child who was born in a stable. 
Meanwhile, a number of wise men from a far off land arrive
on the scene bearing three gifts for the newborn child.  The wise men tell the family that they have
been following a star for months and that it finally came to a rest over the
town of Bethlehem.  However on their way to Bethlehem the wise men had encountered the
local governor and informed him of their mission,
how they were seeking one who would become the king of the Jews.  In a fit of jealousy the Governor ordered all
the children in the village under the age of two murdered. Mary and Joseph
however were able to escape after being warned of the governor’s plans by yet another
angel.
And that’s what we believe. 
I don’t know if there was a street name where that stable in Bethlehem
was located but a miracle definitely happened there.   I was shopping for a Christmas card for my
best friend the other day, and I probably spend more time on Reg’s card than on
any other, which isn’t much of a stretch, I only buy three other cards.  But one of the cards I considered for Reg had
the three wise men staring in awe at the stable and one of them says, “If this doesn’t
make it in the bible I don’t know what will”
 
So why did Jesus have to be born that way?  I mean nothing like that happened with the
birth of Mohammed or Buddha.  Even with
the basket and Pharaoh’s daughter Moses’ birth was downright boring by
comparison so why is the Christmas story so wonderfully strange?  Let’s take a look at what makes it so
miraculous.
The Miracle of the Virgin
Birth
  If there is one element of the
Christmas story that people have the most problem with it is the virgin birth.  There are even churches,
churches that claim to be Christian churches who say this never happened, it was just made up.  Makes me wonder if they don’t believe the
essentials why do they call themselves churches? Hmmm,
enquiring minds want to know.
The virgin birth plays an
important part in both accounts of the Christmas story, you remember the story Matthew 1:18 This is how
Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to
Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she
became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Luke tells us the same story in
Luke 1:26-27 In
the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to
Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be
married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David.
And if there was one person who
should know Mary’s sexual history it was Mary and she seems pretty sure that
she won’t qualify when Angel tells her she is going to be a mom.  Listen to what Mary says Luke 1:34 Mary asked the
angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”
As a matter of fact hundreds of
years before Mary had been born the Prophet Isaiah made this statement Isaiah 7:14 All right
then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a
child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God
is with us’).
We are talking God coming to earth.  How should he come?  The same way that you and me and Genghis Khan
and Adolph Hitler were conceived and born? The prophet said that God would
chose a sign, and he did, he stepped outside the boundary of natural laws
that say that in the act of conception a male and a female would each contribute
a cell which would become a new person. 
Instead God did what had never happened before and has not
happened since and that is he produced a child with only one cell.  You read in the papers about same sex
parents, don’t believe it, it can’t happen. 
It takes ingredients from a boy and a girl to make a baby.
And so believe it or not a virgin gave birth as strange as
that may seem and the child’s name was Jesus.  And it was a miracle. 
Luke
2:1-4
At that time the Roman emperor,
Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire.
(This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All
returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because
Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea,
David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in
Galilee.
The Miracle of Bethlehem  You
understand the significance here right. 
There would come a time that Jesus’ bona fides would be questioned.  Was he really the Messiah? Did he really
fulfill the prophecies? Was he really who he said he was?  And the teachers of the law would look not
only at whether or not he fulfilled those prophecies but how he fulfilled them.
  
One of the prophecies that the
people of Israel looked to in regards to the coming Messiah is found in Micah 5:2 But you, O
Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah.
Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from the
distant past.
Maybe people would think it was all an elaborate scam
thought up by Mary and Joseph.  You know
when people are expecting their first child they often dream of what that child
will be and do when they grow up.  Maybe
they will be a Doctor or Prime Minister or the next Sydney Crosby, or perhaps
the next Tiger Woods, without the entire adultery thing.
So maybe Mary and Joseph were hoping that their little boy
would grow up to be the Messiah and they knew the Messiah had to be born in
Bethlehem so while Mary was great with child they made the four day trip.   You say “That would be crazy Denn!”  You watch the news?  I’ve seen people do crazier things with and
for their kids.
I’m not saying that is what happened, I’m just saying that
eventually there could be potential for people to think that’s what happened.
But what if they didn’t have a
choice, what if it could never be said that they were all part of a grand plan
to scam the world into believing that their son was the Son of God by choosing
to have their child in Bethlehem? 
Not only that but this prophecy thing was important stuff,
not to be trifled with.  What if there
was the chance that even if Mary and Joseph were given angelic direction to go
to Bethlehem they hedged.  You know at
the last minute decided they didn’t want to put the extra miles on donkey, or
Mary wasn’t feeling well or Joseph had gotten behind in some of his carpentry
work, or didn’t feel he could take the time off with a baby on the way.
So while they might choose to disobey a heavenly decree, for
whatever reason, and don’t judge them, they would be much more apt to obey the
law of the land, especially when it was enforced as strictly as Rome enforced
it. 
The question then is was Caesar used as a puppet? Or was the
divine plan simply put into place to coincide with the plans of Rome?  Paul wrote in Galatians 4:4 But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject
to the law.  Not anytime but the
right time.
I don’t know if the Micah prophecy had even entered into
Mary and Joseph’s thoughts, if with all that they were going through at that
point in their lives if it was even on the radar.  “We need to get the nursery ready, buy a
crib, get a donkey baby seat and go to Bethlehem to fulfill the prophecy made
five hundred years ago.”  But it was part
of the plan.  And I’m sure when they
heard the news that they were going to have to make the trip to Bethlehem they
may not have been thrilled.
“Great just what we need, Mary is ginormous, I have a big
job going on for the Steinberg’s, our new house isn’t ready yet and now this.”  But it was just what they needed, or at least
it was what the Kingdom needed. 
But ultimately it was a matter of obedience.  Obedience to the laws of man and obedience to
the direction of God.  Maybe Joseph
needed the first in order for the second. 
God is good; he provides us with a way and sometimes makes it easier for
us.
How often do we need that nudge?  I am sure there have been times in my life
when I have done the right things and come out smelling like roses but I didn’t
do the right thing enthusiastically, and maybe not completely willingly. 
And
sometimes we don’t understand why God allows what he does, and maybe will never
understand on this side of eternity so all we can do is believe and claim the
promise of Romans 8:28 And we know that God causes
everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called
according to his purpose for them.  Even when we don’t understand it, and may not
understand it on this side of eternity and even when we wouldn’t have done it
that way.
I
mentioned to someone once that I was making a list of questions for when I got
to heaven but they reminded me that we would have perfect knowledge when we got
to heaven and wouldn’t have to ask those questions because then we would
know. 
We
will be like: there are a few things I’d like to know.  And then it will be the big eureka
moment.  Aha!
Luke
2:8-11
That night there were shepherds
staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an
angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory
surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be
afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all
people. The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem,
the city of David!
The Miracle of the Angels and Shepherds   The next thing that seems a little out
there are the angels appearing to the shepherds.
To us there is little significance in the
shepherds.  And yet in the time of Christ
they were the despised ones.  The
religious elite snubbed them and considered them second-class citizens.  You see, no
matter how much they loved God the demands of the flock were too much for them
to obey all the ceremonial aspects of the law, such as hand washing.  And so to these who found it so difficult to
keep the law came the announcement of the one who would save them by
grace. 
Perhaps they were special shepherds, we’re
told that just outside of Bethlehem
there was a very special flock of sheep, a flock of perfect sheep without spot
or blemish that were used in the daily sacrifice at the temple. Because these
sacrificial lambs were so important to the religious life of the Jews, they
were given the very best of everything. 
And so maybe it was to those who nurtured the sacrificial lambs that the
Angels came bringing the good news of the great sacrifice and that was
Jesus.  But really the sheep don’t
matter, it was to the shepherds that the Angels came and in vs. 10-11-12 they were told
the story of the baby who was born in a manger.
In those early days historians tell us that it was customary
that when a male child was born that local musicians would gather at the home
and greet the new son with simple music. 
Unless of course you were the son of a poor couple far from home and you
were born in a barn.  But in its place His
heavenly Father provided a choir of Angels to serenade his son.
Matthew
2:1-2
Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea,
during the reign of King Herod. About that time some wise men from eastern
lands arrived in Jerusalem, asking, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We
saw his star as it rose, and we have come to worship him.” And then
there was The Miracle of the Wise Men.  
What symbolizes Christmas more than
the picture of the Magi kneeling in adoration before the new born messiah?  Across the desert sand they had come, mile
after mile following but a promise of a distant start.  I wonder if as they packed their camels in Persia
if their family friends and neighbors thought of them as wise men?
“So guys, where’re you going?” 
“That way.”
“Oh and what is your final destination?”
“Don’t know.”
“How will you know when you get there?”
“The star will stop”
“Well, who are you going to see?”
“A baby”
“Uhhhh, and what’s the baby’s name?”
“Wonderful, counselor, prince of peace,
Everlasting father.”
“You know Bob I do believe that the boys
have been out in the sun way too long.”
And yet the Magi of the East made their
pilgrimage across the sea of sand to the little town of Bethlehem to worship at the cradle of
Christ.  We know very little about the
Magi, but we do know that they were
from the country of Persia
which is now Iran.  And we know that the Magi were originally
from a tribe of Medes who tried to overthrow the King.  When their little coup failed they put their
political aspirations behind them and chose safer work as holy men, priest and teachers of Kings.   It was from this occupation that we discover
that Magi is the root word of Magic.  Now
we don’t know why the sign came to these men,
maybe it was there for everyone but only these few choice to follow. 
Regardless of the reason, it was the Magi
who followed the star to visit the Christ child, and maybe it was simply to
signify that Christianity would ultimately be for the gentile as well as the
Jew. Because even though Jesus came as the Jewish Messiah we are told that
there was this sense of expectancy over the entire area of the world concerning
the coming Messiah of the Jews.  The
belief was summed up by the Roman Historian Suetonius
when he wrote “There had spread over all the orient an
old and established belief, that it was fated at that time for men coming from
Judea to rule the world.”
And so it’s fitting is it not that the one that would save
the world, that his birth was announced not only to the people of Israel but to
the greater world as well.  So perhaps
the Wise men’s presence at the first Christmas wasn’t so absurd after all.
And I know that some of you are
sitting there thinking “Doesn’t Denn know that the magi weren’t actually at the
first Christmas?” 
Give
me a break.  I never really thought much
about when the magi arrived until a number of years ago I was talking to a
friend of mine who attends another evangelical church in the city and she told
me how surprised she was to find out that the Wise men weren’t at the first
Christmas but arrived much later.  I kind
of suspected where she got this nugget of information but asked anyway and she
told me that one of her pastors had preached on it the Sunday before.  It comes up from time to time and here’s the
rational.  It would have taken the Magi a
considerable amount of time to make their way from their home in Persia.   It says in Matthew 2:11 They entered the house and
saw the child with his mother, Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.
And lastly Herod ordered the
boys two and under executed.  And so the
assumption is that the Magi arrived after a considerable length of time perhaps
almost two years later.  But we all know
what happens when we assume right? 
Sometimes we’re wrong.  Sometimes
I think preachers stretch a point sometime to show how much smarter they are
then other people. 
A few things to consider, if you
will?  If God could put a star in the sky
to announce the birth of his son, then he could put it there far enough in
advance to get the wise men there on time. 
Secondly, while the Bible says Jesus was born in a manager, there is
nothing to indicate that is where they stayed for their entire stay in
Bethlehem, could have moved into a house the next day if room became
available.  Why would Joseph a carpenter
from Nazareth stay in Bethlehem any longer then he had to for the census?
That was free.
The greatest event in human
history has to be when God came to dwell amongst us. And how should that have
happened?  Should it have been an
everyday event that no one noticed? Or should there have been some element of
wonder attached to it?  I know that there
are people who deny the events of the first Christmas because they can’t
believe that things like that could happen and perhaps that’s why the Bible
says 1 Corinthians 1:18 The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed
for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.
Perhaps we could change that
just a bit to read 1 Corinthians 1:18 The message of Christmas is foolish to those who are headed
for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God.