The Christmas season can be so hard for some of us. Loneliness, sorrow, ghosts of Christmas past and fears of Christmas yet to come haunt us. Our culture sells us a sort of optimistic Christmas miracle that promises it will all work out in the end, but that is not our lived experience. The Bible promises the true Christmas miracle, however. It is a miracle not realized apart from sorrow, but through it. The true miracle at Christmas is that God is with us in all our experiences.
The miracle is revealed and discussed in that famous Christmas passage of Isaiah 7. The particular identification of the woman and the child mentioned in this prophecy has stirred up all kinds of scholarly debate. Matthew 1:23 clearly connects it to Jesus but that poses a strange problem for Ahaz, since he would have LONG been dead. By the time that Jesus comes onto the scene there would have been no one left to reassure of this original promise. So, there must have been a dual reference in mind here: a contemporary woman (possibly Ahaz’ wife) whose son (possibly Ahaz’s son mentioned in 8:3) would be the symbol of rescue. But however it was understood in its contemporary context, it is clear that Isaiah also has in mind the Messiah – and Matthew picks up on that indicating that Jesus is the true son of the virgin, the true symbol of salvation. He is the true Immanuel – God with us.
That is really the major point of Isaiah 7 – God is with us. He is with us in our difficulties and trials; he cares and walks with us through hardship and sorrow. And the confidence we can have that God is with us is found in the person of Jesus Christ – the living Immanuel. Here is the true Christmas miracle, the real hope that we can encourage ourselves with as we face the difficulties of the holiday season: God became man and dwelled among us that He might rescue us! God is with us. The virgin has conceived and born a son, and He is the prince of peace, the perfect counselor, almighty God!
Things don’t just work out perfectly at Christmas. There isn’t always a perfect snow, and a sweet resolution to conflict, and happy new year. Sometimes the holidays are hard, dreadful even. But God is with us! That’s what Christmas is really about – it’s about the truth that Jesus has come to rescue us. He has come to save us from sin, but he has also come to make all things right. The hurt and ache that you experience this holiday season will not always last. There is coming a time when all things will be made right. The Virgin Birth is, in fact, a pronouncement that God is doing something new, creating something new in the midst of the brokenness of this world. The virgin birth is, after all, not “scientific.” It’s supernatural, it’s not normal, it’s miraculous. Jesus’ birth is the precursor to Jesus’ work; the uniqueness of his birth announces the coming of a new life, a new creation, a new Kingdom! Jesus is born of a virgin as the true Christmas miracle, which gives hope of renewal to the brokenness of our own lives and hearts. In the words of one theologian: The virginal conception speaks powerful of new creation, something fresh happening within the old world, beyond the reach and dreams of the possibilities we currently know. That, friends, is hope. That is Christmas magic!
Let the difficulties of this season, the trials of your life, the hurt you experience, let it drive you to God – let it encourage your faith and dependence upon Him. You can trust Him in the midst of your sorrows because He has evidenced His love for you in the sending of Jesus. Paul says it this way in Romans 8: He who did not spare his son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him give us all things? Paul’s point is that if God already gave us the greatest and most costly Christmas gift there is to give: His son Jesus Christ. Then how can we not also trust Him to care for us through the difficulties of the season? There is a Christmas Miracle: the Virgin conceived and bore a son. This miracle a testimony to Ahaz that God can be trusted, and it is a testimony to you and I that we can trust God with the hurts, regrets, and aches that haunt us too. Don’t trust the Christmas kitsch of our culture, look to Immanuel.