God Outdoes Himself!—Eight Miracles of the First Christmas
By Ronan Keane
Every baby is a miracle of God. 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—rejoices 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.
Unlike others’, Jesus’ birth was announced before He was even conceived. “Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel said to her, ‘Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!’ Then the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus'” (Luke 1:26-28,30-31). 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'” (Luke 1:34-35 TLB).
This event was foretold 700 years earlier by the prophet Isaiah: “Therefore 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]” (Isaiah 7:14). In every sense, Jesus is the Son of God. Miracle number two.
Gabriel also told Mary that her cousin Elizabeth, who had been barren and was now past the age for childbearing, would also conceive and give birth to a son who would “turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.” Elizabeth gave birth to a boy who grew up to be John the Baptist. Everything happened exactly as Gabriel had announced (Luke 1:5-25,57-66). Miracle number three.
What about Joseph, Mary’s fiancé? What was he to think when Mary returned from visiting Elizabeth and he found out that Mary was three months pregnant? As can be expected, his first reactions were mixed. “Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly” (Matthew 1:19).
Joseph wanted to spare Mary humiliation and possible death—the punishment for adultery under Jewish law (Deuteronomy 22:13-14,21)—but we can also 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, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus [“the Lord is salvation,” in Hebrew], for He will save His people from their sins.’ Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know [have sex with] her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus” (Matthew 1:20-21,24-25). Miracle number four.
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. “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2).
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.
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!'” (Luke 2:10-14).
The shepherds left their flocks and went to Bethlehem, where they found the Messiah exactly as the angel had told them. “Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child” (Luke 2:17). What this means is that, 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 does not 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 it’s believed, based on other Scriptures, that it took 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” (Matthew 2:9-11). 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 better love, understand, sympathize with, and eventually die for you and me. Eternal life is God’s gift to us, and that life is in Jesus (1 John 5:11).
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