Meditations on the Reality of Christmas: 7. A Unique Happening
Lk 1:26,27 In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary.
We read things many times and they can remain common. A child is taken into a shop and is shown a stone that shines like glass and they see it as glass – except it is a most amazing diamond. A child walks into an art gallery and smiles in front of a painting of sunflowers. How nice. But the painting is by one of the great masters and worth over a million. We can read things and be unmoved. We can read them, be moved and then read them again and again so they become ordinary.
I do not speak about the baby who arrived from heaven but the fact of a conception that had no man involved. Certain parts of the Church make much of Mary but in reality there is little special about her, and yet for reasons beyond our understanding she was chosen by God to hold a seed that was the Son of God. One moment she was just Mary, the next she was Mary with child. If you had been an observer you would probably have seen no change, nothing happened in the room. In fact we don’t know when it happened. Was it when the angel Gabriel was with her or did it happen later? The answer is irrelevant. What is relevant is that one moment she was alone, the next moment Immanuel, God is with us, or at least the seed to make that happened.
However hard we try to understand it, it still remains as simple as I have described it. One minute she is Mary, the next she is changed. God has done something to her and she is different. Philosophers struggle with miracles which, by definition, are humanly impossible happenings. The incredible thing is that, as we hinted at in a previous meditation, God could have spoken and in some unobserved place a God-man appeared, fully grown, but He didn’t do it like that. He followed the pattern or the way that every other baby is conceived and then born, except in this case there was no man involved.
This is the struggle to cope with the very idea of the Incarnation – God in child. The One who was the Son of God grew as a tiny baby, with limitations, grew as a small boy, with limitations, grew into a young man with (fewer) limitations, all the while experiencing everything that we experience. He got hungry, he got cold, he washed, he went to the toilet, he got tired and he went to sleep.
I don’t know if you have ever watched a film of a crystal growing on a glass dish in a laboratory, stretching and stretching until it becomes as wonderful as a snowflake. There is a growth there that is beautiful to behold. So the Son of God grew in human form. How could God do this? I don’t know, it defies my imagination.
But the only thing about every miracle is that it is a God thing. One minute it is ordinary and the next, change! One minute there is water, the next it is wine. One minute a few loaves, the next enough to feel a multitude. One minute there is a deaf mute, the next a hearing speaking man or woman. One minute there is a body riddled with cancer, the next it is all gone. All these things are inexplicable, all of them are miracles, all of them are humanly impossible and yet the Scriptural testimony and the testimony of millions over the last two thousand years is that one minute, ordinariness, the next, transformation.
The spectrum of belief, I have come to see, produces Christians of all shades; there will be those who believe in new birth, and they stop there, there will be those who believe miracles happened two thousand years ago, but they stopped there. There will be those who believed that the Holy Spirit worked two thousand years ago, but he stopped there. Why do we limit our beliefs, when it comes to God, because if He did it then, why shouldn’t He now? If He took ordinary people in the days of the Biblical accounts, why can’t He take you and me now? He, after all, is unchanging, and so if He doesn’t do these things in and around me, do I need to change? “Lord, I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mk 9:24)