Advent Devotional: December 20
Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, but before they lived together, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph, being a righteous man and unwilling to expose her to public disgrace, planned to dismiss her quietly. But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,”
which means, “God is with us.” When Joseph awoke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him; he took her as his wife, but had no marital relations with her until she had borne a son and he named him Jesus.
– Matthew 1, 18 - 25
I didn’t grow up in a church-going family. But somehow as a small child I developed a personal tradition of reading these verses every Christmas Eve night. During my childhood the verses were just a story. I didn’t recognize the miracles that permeate them. How many can you find?
First, there’s Mary’s virgin pregnancy by the Holy Spirit; then Joseph’s visit by an angel; and then Joseph’s change of heart. Because we all know the story so well, we know that Mary also received an angelic visitor. And I’d say it’s a miracle that neither Mary nor Joseph brushed aside their visits as just dreams. Instead, both of them had such miraculous faith that they immediately followed the angel’s orders to the letter. The fact that God brought together these two obedient, faith-filled people to parent his beloved son is its own miracle.
God’s miracles didn’t stop two thousand years ago, of course. When I watch with an expectant heart, I see them all around me. They’re there in a child who wasn’t expected to survive, but this year celebrates his eighth Christmas; in the illness that suddenly disappears right before surgery; and in the families who find freedom after years of oppression in a war-ravaged country. But miracles are granted in smaller ways, too, such as for the recent widow whose depression is lifted when she adopts a formerly abused dog; in the Reverse Food Truck donation from someone who has needed help in the past; and in the alcoholic who stays sober for two decades.
I know that you may call some of those events blessings, rather than miracles. But all of them are gifts of love from God. They’re among the endless avalanche of love and light that God pours on us, led by the gift of his son so long ago and continuing every day with the miracle that God knows all our flaws and sins but loves us anyway! At the end of this difficult year, I take heart that God’s miracles abound. I only need to open my heart to see the evidence.
Barbara Seale, NorthPark member