I grew up wanting the perfect life. My mother drove me to a small two-room church school every day for grades 1-7. For 7 years we drove by our dentist’s home which I perceived to be perfect. I then went to public school for grades 8-12. During this time I had friends who lived in houses similar to my dentist’s perfect home. So I developed a concept of the perfect life I wanted to have one day. I began to believe I could have this perfect life when I did well in my college-prep courses in high school. I was well on my way to the perfect life attained through a career in medicine when I graduated from high school in 1973.
Fast forward to 2004 when I accepted a call into pastoral ministry after nearly 20 years in medicine. I had the perfect life. I had the perfect home, the perfect car, the perfect wardrobe, and the perfect family. I’m simply saying that my life was everything I had expected it to be on those car rides to elementary school. But there was one thing missing. It wasn’t the life God called me to live. He had called me to be a pastor. I had started on that path in college, but ended up chasing the perfect life to be a doctor.
This is an issue many of us face. We want our concept of perfect. We want what the world has to offer. And every Christmas we are faced with a decision between the magic of Christmas or the miracle of Christmas. We are bombarded with advertisements promising magical gifts for the perfect life all the while God’s Spirit quietly offers us the miracle of Christmas if we give up on perfect.
If you want to know how this works, check out the first Christmas story. Joseph and Mary were asked to be the parents of Jesus. They already had their life planned together. I can only imagine they saw themselves as having children together, a home, and all that comes with family life. Joseph would work as a carpenter in his home town. Life would be perfect. But then an angel came to each one of them. They were faced with a choice. They could give up on their concept of the perfect married life with Jesus, or they could go for their concept of the perfect married life without Jesus. Imagine the miracle Mary and Joseph experienced when they gave up on perfect. They not only experienced the miracle, they became a miracle. Mary gave birth to the Son of God and Joseph gave Him a home. Together, they changed the course of human history.
We too often allow our desire for the perfect house, the perfect wardrobe, the perfect friends, the perfect job, the perfect life get in our way of experiencing and being God’s miracle. The choice is ours: Magic or Miracle? The same old Christmas or a different kind of Christmas? This Christmas I’m ready to give up on perfect and be the miracle. What about you?
Every Christmas Eve I would get in the car with my dad who would drive around the neighborhood to see if we could spot Santa Claus. We would look on housetops, and of course in the sky. Most years we didn’t see anything resembling Santa. So we would return home to the news that Santa had visited our home while we were out. By the time I was 6 or 7 years old my parents told me the truth about Santa. It wasn’t a big deal to me since I had never seen him anyway. And what’s more, my parents had always taught me the real Christmas story. I knew the miracle of Jesus’ birth. In fact, the Christmas story is filled with miracles. There’s the miracle of the virgin birth. The miracle of Joseph accepting Mary’s story. The miracle of the Son of God becoming the Son of man. The miracle of wise men from the east finding the Son of man. The miracle of the ancient prophets foretelling the exact time and place of the Son of man’s birth. And the miracle of escaping Herod’s plan to destroy the Son of man.
The Christmas story is indeed filled with the miraculous. So why don’t we expect miracles as part of our Christmas story? For some of us, including many Christians, we don’t actually see the miracle of the Christmas story. Or if we do, we see it as something that happened over 2,000 years ago in a time when miracles were commonplace. But today we live in the scientific era where miracles are simply those things yet to be dissected, explained,and repudiated as nothing more than a law of nature. So we don’t expect a miracle. We talk about the “magic” of Christmas, but not the miracle of it. We give exhortations to “believe” in the inner good of humanity, but not in the inner miracle of God.
As I try to make sense of the miracle of Christmas, I find proof of it at the very beginning of the story. I’m talking about the very beginning of our story that is found in Genesis. Here we see a description of a miracle happening in which God creates two things man has never been able to create: life and time. Many in the scientific community feel we are close to creating life. After all, we are able to clone mammals. Some might argue that we can create a single cell. The headline “Scientists Create First Artificial Life” was published by WorldPress.com on May 20, 2010. The New York Times published an article titled “Scientists Create Artificial Life In Laboratory” on May 21, 2010. But there are no similar claims of man creating time, not even a single second.
The creation story in Genesis describes God as first creating life culminating in the creation of man. Then God created time, the Sabbath, for man and God to commune on a weekly basis. God established a weekly cycle to remind us of the miracle of time and the life that lives within that time. Yes, He created time on the seventh day that is called the Sabbath so we could experience the miracle of time with Him. The miracle of the Christmas story is that the Son of God interjects Himself into man’s time and space. Perhaps if we really want to experience the miracle of Christmas we should look at how Jesus spent His Sabbaths on this earth. He created the Sabbath as a time to be with us. Christmas is a celebration of the time He came to live with us. What better way to experience the miracle of Christmas than to do the things Jesus did on the Sabbath when He lived on earth?
We can experience a different kind of Christmas this year if we follow the example of Jesus and expect a miracle. In Luke 4 Jesus quoted from Isaiah to describe His mission on this earth, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed.” We can live the miracle. We can be the miracle. Jesus tells us we only need the faith of a mustard seed to move mountains. It’s time to expect a miracle by being a miracle this Christmas!