Dec 20, 2012 | Comments 6
Well, it’s the Christmas Season again. Erlene loves all things Christmas, and, somehow, her delight in Christmas has transformed her husband, a recovering Grinch, into a Christmas-lover.
As part of our Christmas festivities – and no Christmas celebration is complete apart from this, we watch Miracle on 34th Street. Now, I’m not talking about one of the remakes of the film; I mean the original, 1947 movie staring Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, and little Natalie Wood. All other productions are not certified for “Christmas-festivities-to-be-done-so-that-Christmas-can-be-celebrated-righteously-at-the-Wilsons.” And if you disagree with this, you’ll have to take it up with my wife. I only know what I’m told.
Truly, Miracle on 34th Street delights and warms the soul. If nothing else, it reminds us of a simpler time. It reminds me of my childhood. I can actually remember the first time I saw the movie. I remember watching my daddy smile.
However, like so many things connected to Christmas, the story of Miracle on 34th Street is wishful storytelling. All the wishing and hoping in all the world won’t make Santa Claus real. There is no miracle in Miracle on 34th Street; it’s just a good story. It’s a part of the secular demythologizing of Christmas by those whose only connection to the Christian faith is anemic and vapid baggage inherited from those whose faith was authentic and passionate. These, having abandoned Christian truths, prize sentimentalism over the Biblical story and have no place for a miracle apart from a warm, fictitious tale for children.
The Biblical story of Christmas is an abomination and offense to those who know not our Lord Jesus Christ and look for his coming again. They want celebration without Jesus. It’s kind of like the Japanese celebration of Christmas: a truly secular season with Santa, decorated trees, and gifts but no “God-in-the-the-flesh,” no Incarnation, no Messiah, no salvation, and no miracle.
Nevertheless, the story of Christmas is the story of a MIRACLE – the miracle of the Virgin Birth of Jesus. “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (KJV, Isa. 7:14; also see Matt. 1:23).
Actually, miracles in the Bible are rather uncommon. Miracles in the Bible don’t occur willy nilly but in order to attest, verify, and direct our attention to the mighty acts of God’s salvation and judgment. Two examples of this are: (1) the miracle of the Flood in which God saved Noah and his family but judged a wicked and unbelieving world; and (2) the miracle of the Ten Plagues in which God delivered the Children of Israel out of slavery in Egypt but plundered and desolated the Egyptians in terrible judgment.
Though Jesus condemned the cynics, skeptics, and unbelieving for asking for miraculous signs (Matt. 12:39), “signs and wonders” were a hallmark of the life and ministry of Jesus to the point it is impossible to read the Gospel accounts without running headfirst into a miracle. “Signs and wonders” accompanied the preaching of the members of the infant Church (Acts 4:30 and 5:12), and the ministry of the Apostle Paul was also authenticated by “signs and wonders” (Acts 14:3, Rom. 15:19; and 2 Cor. 12:12). Indeed, according to Hebrews 2.4, “signs and wonders” confirm the message of the New Testament, and “we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things” found in “the message” lest “we neglect so great salvation” (KJV, Heb. 2:1 and Heb 2:3).
The Virgin Birth is an offense of stumbling to many. “I will not believe unless I can examine and understand” is the curt boast of the skeptic. The atheist announces: “There are no miracles; there is no Virgin Birth.” Bill and Wanda I-Work-Hard-Everyday-and-Don’t-Have-Time-to-Worry-about-Religious-Stuff say: “Thank goodness for the Christmas season because we get a day off; we’ll have a Jack and Coke to get us in the Christmas mood – make it a double, please.”
In spite of the shrill voices we hear debunking Christmas and the shameless commercialization of greedy profiteers, Christmas still points to a young woman and an angel announcing she will have a baby because “the Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God,” and you shall “call his name JESUS” (KJV, Luke 2:35 and Luke 2:31).
Augustine and Anselm are regarded as Church Fathers. Their intellectual abilities and accomplishments are astounding. To guide their studies, both men had as their maxim these words: “I believe in order to understand.” Before them, however, there was Mary who stepped into this paradigm of faith. Not comprehending the hows or whys of the miracle encompassing and gripping her life, she replied in faith, saying, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word” (KJV, Luke 1:38).
Once again the gladsome message of prophets and angels is heard in the black, velvety evening sky proclaiming a miracle: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive.” For those whose ears have been opened by the Holy Spirit to hear and believe, it is the great message of the miracle of the birth of the Savior. For those whose ears are closed in unbelief, it is just a thunderous sound signifying nothing – no miracle at all!
Is your celebration of Christmas like Miracle on 34th Street – an escape into faithless fantasy? You know, there is another way!? It’s the way of faith. It’s the way of believing to understand. It’s the way of an angel announcing a MIRACLE: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive.” It’s the way of Mary’s FAITH: “Be it unto me according to thy word.”
Charles W. Wilson
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