Luke 1:26-28: “In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, 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. The angel went to her and said, ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.’”

Two miraculous pregnancies within six months and within the same family (since Elizabeth and Mary were related) are remarkable, to say the least.  Like a door opening to a mysterious room, God’s carefully designed plan began to unfold. And the world was watching.

Pregnancies are always miraculous, given that a brand-new being is developing within a mother’s womb. Think about that. That in itself is amazing. Adding wonder to amazement, the Christmas miracle happened right in a woman’s womb when God became a man; God went to town, specifically, to the town of Bethlehem.

Trusting Jesus, He will move in and become a resident of our hearts. The apostle Paul explained in one of his letters (Ephesians 3:17):

“Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.”

While Mary carried Jesus physically for nine months, all of us can carry Jesus spiritually over a lifetime. Like any other endeavors we are pursuing, believing in Jesus is a growing experience. Similar to roots growing deeper into the soil supporting the weight of a tree, so our understanding of God’s love grows deeper over time, which supports us in tough times and considerably lightens the load we bear. I dare say that this is something God and His angels never tire to see – the weight lifted off of our shoulders as new hope is nourished inside of us.

The story of Christmas is in fact open-ended and has many sequels. As we make room in our hearts for Jesus, a new chapter is being written. And so, my friend, the Christmas miracle continues.

“I hope and I pray that someday you will see that He’s the only truth. His love can heal all wounds cuz only God can make us see there’s a miracle plan for you and me. A Christmas miracle inside of you and me.” (George Canyon)

Matthew 2:4-6: “When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. ‘In Bethlehem in Judea,’ they replied, ‘for this is what the prophet has written: ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

While King Herod seemed somewhat familiar with Bible prophecies related to the coming of the Messiah, he was not at all familiar with God who inspired these prophecies – and here is where the story turns tragic:  With feigned interest King Herod approached the spiritual leadership of his time to investigate the details surrounding the birth of the Messiah. He didn’t ask questions to satisfy his curiosity but to come up with an evil scheme, convinced that he could actually outwit God. He was mistaken. And in his insane attempt to kill Mary’s baby, countless mothers were bereaved of their little children. Heartbroken collective grief was wailing in the streets of Bethlehem. About this horrific event Matthew wrote in his gospel (Matthew 2:18):

“A voice is heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”

Why was the most wondrous thing the world has ever seen, the birth of the Messiah, followed by such horror? There is no easy answer to this question.  If anything, the two contrasting events reveal all the more how badly this broken world needs a Savior.

Isn’t this the old familiar tension we have dealt with throughout our lifetime?  We celebrate the beauty of Christmas while brutality assails this planet in countless wars, while in poverty-stricken areas of this world children are sold into prostitution, while God’s creation is subjected to torture and terror, while human dignity is blatantly disregarded, or, on a more personal level, while struggling with an untimely death of a loved one.  This tension we experience is called faith. In Henry Longfellow’s song “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day” we read:

“Hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men! Then pealed the bells more loud and deep: ‘God is not dead, nor doth He sleep’”

God is not dead, nor aloof and unconcerned. He gave us Jesus. He reaches out to us saying (Matthew 11:28):

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Jesus is God’s gift to the world; He came to save us. It takes, however, two to save: God and you. God’s deal is to provide the help we need; yours and mine is to believe. Believing, we will continue to go through tough times, but we will experience God’s peace along the way.

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play
And mild and sweet their songs repeat
Of peace on earth good will to men

Galatians 4:4-5: “But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law that we might receive adoption to sonship.”

If you have trouble believing in the virgin birth, then think about the way the first human being was constructed. Out of mud Adam was formed. Then God took Adam’s rib and fashioned another human being, his partner Eve. God uses matter and turns it into living and breathing beings. What a way to create life! His first original creation then must have been matter. God literally created something out of nothing. Matter progressively evolved into the ever-changing universe we see today. Matter never stays the same. Only God does.

The Son of God was born of a woman. That is an entirely different matter. The Son of God did not need to be created, He was already there. He was the One who had created matter, and now He Himself became matter. A precious member of the Trinity materialized in a woman’s womb. That’s the Christmas miracle we are celebrating.

God who created matter could have easily materialized out of thin air. In fact, this is what people expected from the Messiah. The apostle John wrote about a situation in the Jerusalem temple where people were divided over who Jesus is. Here is what they said (John 7:25-27):

“At that point some of the people of Jerusalem began to ask, ‘Isn’t this the man they are trying to kill? Here he is, speaking publicly, and they are not saying a word to him. Have the authorities really concluded that he is the Messiah? But we know where this man is from; when the Messiah comes, no one will know where he is from.’”

Nobody was supposed to know where Jesus is from, and yet there He was, born into a carpenter’s family growing up in a not so illustrious neighborhood.

Have you ever noticed that God’s way of doing things never conforms to our expectations? Well, here is a surprise for you – God chose to collaborate with human beings to send His Son into the world; her name is Mary, and we know that God first sent a messenger, Angel Gabriel, to ask for her permission. When Mary accepted she welcomed the Son of God. So did Joseph, her fiancé, when he married her. Mary and Joseph both adopted Jesus, and the rest is history.

Here is the beauty of God’s plan when it comes to fruition: Mary and Joseph adopted God’s Son into their family, so that we in turn get adopted into God’s family. Merry Christmas to you all!

“Breath of heaven
Hold me together
Be forever near me
Breath of heaven
Breath of heaven
Lighten my darkness
Pour over me your holiness
For you are holy”
Songwriters: Chris Eaton / Amy Lee Grant

Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”

During Prophet Isaiah’s lifetime the home country of the Jews was divided between the kingdom of Judah and the kingdom of Israel. The split happened right after King Solomon had died, and ever since the two kingdoms had been at odds.

Now Judah’s King Ahaz was threatened by Israel’s King Pekah. King Pekah made an alliance with the Syrian King to overturn the kingdom of Judah. Naturally, King Ahaz became extremely anxious about the impending war.

In this situation God spoke words of encouragement to King Ahaz and the people of Judah by saying that the planned invasion of Israel and Syria won’t happen. And in order to confirm the prophecy, God asked King Ahaz to request a sign from Him. For reasons unknown to us, King Ahaz refused to do so. His official statement (Isaiah 7:12):

“But Ahaz said, ‘I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test.’”

Here is Isaiah’s response to King Ahaz’s reaction (Isaiah 7:13-14a):

“Then Isaiah said, ‘Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign:’”

So, the Lord insisted on choosing a sign, since this was not really just about King Ahaz but about every son and daughter of Adam and Eve. And here is the sign God chose (Isaiah 7:14):

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”

Virgins don’t get pregnant, so this is obviously a supernatural phenomenon. Also, the name of the virgin’s son is very remarkable: “I Am with you” contains God’s name “I Am”. What would you think God is suggesting with this kind of name choice other than bestowing His family name to the baby, thus implying that a pregnant virgin will give birth to the Son of God.

When Virgin Mary gave birth to a baby boy 700 years later, Isaiah’s stunning prophecy was fulfilled.

The virgin birth stands out and is different from any other demonstration of God’s involvement in human history. Supernatural phenomena such as stopping the Sun in its tracks or parting the Red Sea show God’s unlimited power. God born into a human family, Mary’s and Joseph’s family, shows His desire to be near us, so near that He becomes our relative. This very special relative of ours has a name: “The One who saves”, aka Jesus.

Deuteronomy 18:15: “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him.”

One day, in the presence of Moses and the people of Israel, God came down with fire and thunder on Mount Horeb to deliver the Ten Commandments. People were beside themselves with fear. Terrified, they were too shocked to listen to God’s message (Exodus 20:18-19):

“When the people saw the thunder and lightning and heard the trumpet and saw the mountain in smoke, they trembled with fear. They stayed at a distance and said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen. But do not have God speak to us or we will die.”

The Lord’s response to the people’s fearful reaction was later recorded. Moses wrote (Deuteronomy 18:17-18):

“The Lord said to me: ‘What they say is good. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him.’” 

About 1443 years later, Jesus was born. He grew up to become a mighty man of God who quickly grew a following. When Jesus called Philip to follow Him, Philip went to break the news to Nathanael. (John 1:45-46):

Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”

 “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.

“Come and see,” said Philip.

Nathanael’s response is classic. Certainly, a carpenter’s son from a humble town is not the kind of Messiah people have expected. – A catch 22, isn’t it? People are either too overwhelmed or too underwhelmed to listen to what God has to say.

Meanwhile, centuries have passed and people are still discussing the phenomenon of Jesus of Nazareth. Who is to say that Jesus is more than a prophet? How do we know that He is the Son of God? I believe that this is something we will have to find out for ourselves; Of course, there are many different voices out there competing for our attention. However, one distinctive voice stands out and brings peace and clarity. It’s the still quiet voice of the Holy Spirit.

Our part is to step back, take our time, focus and listen, and the Spirit of God will speak to our hearts. This is why Jesus says (Matthew 7:7): 

“Seek and you will find.”

When we seek Him out we will certainly find Jesus. He is ready to meet with you and me in a heartbeat. He was born ready.

“Now, I’m not one to second guess
What angels have to say
But this is such a strange
Way to save the world” 
Songwriters: David Allen Clark / Donald A. Koch / Mark R. Harris

John 15:5,8: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

We call God respectfully our Creator. Yes, He is the Creator of the universe, but that is just one side of God. If we limit Him to this one, albeit powerful, aspect of His deity then we focus on His productiveness alone. He is so much more than Creator of the universe. He is our Heavenly Father.

When God created us He was happy. He danced over us and blessed us.

God loves His creation. Thankfully, that is His most defining feature. If this wasn’t the case then He would just be a production machine dropping off His creation without further involvement. – Well, nothing could be further from the truth. God is not a heartless genius. God has a beautiful mind and a beautiful heart. We need to realize that, otherwise, why would we want to meet Him?

I believe this is why Jesus always refers to the Father in His prayers. Jesus loves the Father and the Father loves Him. Jesus came to invite us to be a part of this beautiful relationship and uses a trailing vine as an example to describe how close we can be to God.

Climbing vines adhere themselves using tiny aerial rootlets. Some types of climbing vines present small, disk-like adhesive tips that attach to any type of surface. I believe this is a great metaphor illustrating attachment. With this imagery in mind, can we imagine how attached God is to us? In a love relationship, ideally this goes both ways. God is attached to us, and we are attached to Him – however, look around you! Obviously, mankind is not very attached to its Creator.

When the Trinity split and sent Jesus down to Earth, God reached out for us in a dramatic way. To use Jesus’s imagery: we saw God’s trailing vine in action. Grabbing the hand of Jesus, our trailing vine is reaching out in turn. Now love goes both ways.

Taking the hand of Jesus is no one-day-affair. It’s a life style. Jesus picked a grape vine to further illustrate that being with our Creator produces much fruit. I can almost hear Him saying: “Don’t go off on your own, buddy!” Reaching out and grabbing the hand of Jesus simply makes the best version of ourselves – reflecting well on God’s excellent parenthood. He is a very good Father, and His children are His pride and joy.

Put your hand in the hand of the man
Who stilled the water
Put your hand in the hand of the man
Who calmed the sea – Anne Murray

John 14:6: “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’”

Jesus has a heart-to-heart talk with His disciples on the evening before His death. He is mapping out the future for them, encouraging them to stay on course and giving them a little sneak peek of heaven. He says that there is plenty of room up there; He is preparing a place for them, and, when everything is ready, Jesus will personally welcome them. Heaven is a real place, and there is an unmistakable way that leads there. Jesus is confident that His disciples know the way; His disciples on the other hand – not so much. Here is a snippet of the unfolding conversation between Jesus and His disciples (John 14:4-5 The Living Bible):

(Jesus said) “And you know where I am going and how to get there.”

 “No, we don’t,” Thomas said. “We haven’t any idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?”

This is when Jesus utters His famous statement, which precisely answers the question at hand (John 14:6):

“I am the way and the truth and the life.”

How come that Jesus was so confident while His disciples apparently were not? Despite all our discoveries and advancements, human nature has not changed very much; still today, truth can walk right in front of us while going completely unnoticed.

God is mysterious. The key to unlocking the mystery is finding out who Jesus is. Jesus is more than an inspirational preacher. He represents our road-map to heaven. We study this road-map by getting acquainted with Jesus and looking at His way of life. His way of life is basically love in action – no broken life goes unnoticed.  Jesus loves indiscriminately, with total abandon, and no strings attached.

We live in God’s kingdom in the here and now when we go about our business with Jesus on our side. Living His way brings heaven down. In a sense we have arrived and are already home.

“I’ve been lost in my own place, and I’m gettin’ weary
How far is heaven?
And I know that I need to change my ways of livin’
How far is heaven?”  

 Songwriters: Henry Garza / Joey Garza / Ringo Garza