Christmas miracle” is a well-known phrase. It’s been used in movies and TV shows, as far back as Miracle on 34th Street. Journalists use these words to describe feel-good stories that happen at the end of the year. And of course, ministers preach sermons about the miraculous birth of Jesus.
The biblical Christmas story contains many miracles. Most sermons during the holiday season will touch on one or more of them. But how do you go about giving these miraculous events the importance they deserve? And how do you use those messages to foster faith in a hurting world?
First, let’s take a look at those miracles. Here is brief outline of the miracles in the first two chapters of Matthew and Luke:
- The Virgin Birth (Matthew 1:18-23; Luke 1:34-35)
- Dreams (Matthew 1:19-21; 2:12-13,19-23)
- Prophetic fulfillment (Matthew 1:22-23; 2:3-6,15-18,23)
- Astronomical signs (Matthew 2:1-2,9-10)
- Angelic visitations to Zechariah (Luke 1:11-20); Mary (Luke 1:26-38); and the shepherds (Luke 2:8-14)
- Elizabeth’s pregnancy (Luke 1:13)
- Prophecy about John the Baptist (Luke 1:14-17)
- Zechariah struck mute (Luke 1:20-22,59-66)
- Prophecy about Jesus from Gabriel (Luke 1:31-33)
- Elizabeth filled with the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:41)
- Prophecies about Jesus from Zechariah (Luke 1:67-79); Simeon (Luke 2:28-35); and Anna (Luke 2:36-38)
- Prophetic sign (Luke 2:12)
Once laid out, it’s pretty remarkable how many miracles, miraculous signs, and miraculous proclamations make up the Christmas story.
We need to remind people these are not myths. These are true words from the Bible, and the Word of God is absolutely reliable.
Because it’s true, we can be confident about preaching it. Instead of worrying about providing proof or answering every objection, we can boldly proclaim what the Bible says.
Matthew used the skills of a Hebrew exegete to explain the circumstances of Jesus’ birth. And Luke researched the world and words of Jesus’ day in depth. They left a reliable record for us to share.
Belief is at the heart of the Christmas story, both for those who first received it and for us today as we receive and proclaim it anew every year. But belief is also constantly under attack.
Focus your sermon on communicating God’s message, increasing faith, and overcoming doubt.
Talk of miracles prompts some to look for science-based explanations. Skeptics often point to investigations of the physical world to contradict the claims of the Bible. As a result, preachers may feel a need to wade into these debates.
However, the simple message of hope and truth can also get lost amid apologetic defenses. When we set up a debate between science and faith, we often miss the point.
Science is not primarily concerned with disproving the miraculous. And there is no scientific development that has disproven miracles. Instead, believers today find more and more reason to believe. As we uncover the secrets of the physical world, we better understand the greatness of our Creator.
Instead of setting up science versus faith, we should address the real concern of faith versus doubt. The miracles recorded in the Bible remind us of God’s power and faithfulness.
In response to Mary’s surprise at a virgin birth, the angel replied, “No word from God will ever fail” (Luke 1:37). The NASB says, “Nothing will be impossible with God.” Focus your sermon on communicating God’s message, increasing faith, and overcoming doubt.
Having an idea of where you’re going and why will help you streamline your message and increase its impact. Here are some things you may want to highlight in the Christmas miracles:
Fulfillment of prophecies about Jesus. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus was prophesied about hundreds of years before His birth. Christmas is a time when we can see God’s plan coming together.
Paul told the Galatians that God sent His Son “when the set time had fully come” (Galatians 4:4). Jesus’ birth signaled the arrival of God’s promise, which culminated at the cross and the empty tomb. Prophetic utterances throughout the Old Testament anticipate this time in redemptive history. When we preach, we proclaim the truth that Jesus came to save us.
Confirmation of God’s message. Another purpose of the miraculous is to verify the truth of God’s Word. Many people believed Jesus and followed Him after seeing the miracles He performed.
When you preach about a miracle, consider what God is saying to His people. Begin with the immediate context. For instance, Luke 5:17-26 tells the story of Jesus healing a paralyzed man. But first Jesus proclaimed forgiveness over sin. The miracle not only relieved this man of his ailment, but it also provided evidence of Jesus’ power over sin.
In addition, prayerfully think about how the story applies to your congregation. Help people understand how to live out these truths in their everyday lives.
Reasons to hope. Finally, miracles remind us of the hope we have in Jesus. Whether it’s the hope for a family Zechariah and Elizabeth had or the hope of salvation Mary realized, faith-filled hope is foundational to the miracle experience.
As believers, we know God works miracles. And that belief confirms our hope for Him in other areas. A healing may provide hope for our finances. A restored relationship may gives us hope for unsaved loved ones. And Christmas is the perfect time for hope.
The miracles surrounding Jesus’ birth were true, factual, historical occurrences. They happened in a time and place. But their message is timeless and for anyplace. As you preach this Christmas season, keep that in mind, and proclaim the truth that will carry your congregation into the new year and beyond.