True Christmas Miracles
Topic: English Passage: 1 Peter 2:24-25
This past Friday, I read a news article about about some events in Kansas. Here’s what it said:
“Each day, around 7:00am, for the past couple of weeks, the Sheriff's Office in Franklin County, Kansas, had been getting calls from concerned motorists that a young woman was walking alone along Highway 59 in the cold [low 40’s]. So they set out on a wellness check, only to discover that the 24-year-old woman was walking six miles... from her home [to her job]. It was a trek she was making both ways, four days a week!
“The young mom of twin boys told officers she had no other choice. ‘She had to feed her children and was intent on doing what she needed to in order to take care of her family.’
“The deputies began brainstorming how they could help her. They started raising money and donations from their own force, from local citizens, and even from the [place] where she worked... The rest was pure Christmas magic ...
“According to [local] news, ‘In a matter of days, they were able to gift the young woman her own vehicle: a van, along with two new car seats, a grocery gift card, registration for the van, and the first year of car insurance along with $200!’
“But they didn't stop there. They filled the van with winter coats, food, and Christmas gifts... It might be cold outside (especially in Ottawa, Kansas!), but if this doesn't warm your heart, nothing will.”
That’s the end of the article.
This is the time of year when you start to see and hear people talk about Christmas magic or Christmas miracles. You see that in the news and in Christmas movies. Maybe you hear about it in Christmas songs. Christmas magic, we’re told, generally includes things like:
- A long-separated family member coming back home
- Your bills being paid
- Snow falling
- Finding the love of your life, or being reunited with him/her
- Receiving a very special Christmas gift
Where does this idea of Christmas magic come from? For many people, it’s rooted in fairy tales they are told as kids. Christmas, they’re told, is a time when toys and snowmen come to life and reindeer fly. But then, as people get older, those beliefs go away. The element of wonder remains, though I’m not sure what sustains it.
As Christians, we know the true meaning of Christmas. It’s largely ignored in the culture, but it is part of the greatest and most significant story that can ever be told. There is such a thing as A Christmas miracle, and that’s what I’d like to remind us about today.
The true, biblical story of Christmas is the story of the birth of Jesus. And it is filled with many elements of wonder. There is the wonder of God fulfilling his promises. There is the wonder of angelic visitors to Zacharias, Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds. There is the wonder of a virgin giving birth. And there is the wonder of God becoming flesh. All those pieces of the story have an element of mystery and the miraculous.
But, unless you can connect that story to your life today, it will not benefit you in any way. You need to understand that. If you don’t make a connection between Jesus and your life today, then the story of his birth will not benefit you at all.
Today, I’d like to share with you what a real Christmas miracle is. And I don’t mean the miracles surrounding the events of Christ’s birth; I mean the power of God seen today in your life or mine. What are the true Christmas miracles?
Before we get to that, I need to give you some of the background to the miracles.
Some people say that the Christmas season helps restore their faith in humanity. But that kind of thinking doesn’t really understand the full picture of what humanity is. So, let me share that with you.
The Bible tells us that mankind’s purpose is not merely to be kind or generous to others. We were created in the image of God. We have been placed here to serve as extensions of the glory of God. We are representatives of His majesty, and that is the highest calling in creation.
At the same time, though, the Bible tells us that we humans are now in a pitiful state. Ever since the beginning, mankind has rebelled against God. We have abandoned God’s design, we have rejected Him as Creator and King, and we have chosen to live for our own glory.
Your biggest problem is not a financial crisis, or kids who won’t listen to you, or a troubled marriage. Your biggest problem is called sin; it’s your rebellion against God. That includes our desire to use God for our purposes, rather than submit to His purposes.
Our rejection of God is part of our nature. We inherited it from our ancestors. We don’t fully understand God’s majesty and holiness. And we don’t embrace it for what it is. This is the ugliness of the human condition.
The Bible paints for us how ugly sinful humanity is in two ways. First, it tells us what the righteous consequences of that sin will be, and second, it teaches us of how far our depraved condition extends.
The righteous consequence of our sin is a curse upon this world and eternal judgment for our souls. This is the part that is not so pretty, but it’s the truth. God will, in His righteous holiness, condemn sin. No sin will escape His judgment and wrath. We all deserve that. That’s the consequence of our rebellion.
And just as tragic as the consequence is the extent of our corruption. Human sinfulness extends into every person and into every part of who we are. It is not something we can fix or undo on our own. There is no way we can solve this.
Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately sick; who can understand it?”
We don’t even realize how corrupted we are. Our sinful hearts are turned away from the glory of God. Our body is affected by it—our emotions, our reasoning, our feelings. All of it is stained, and all of us are stained by it.
The Bible tells us, None is righteous, no, not one. No one understands. No one seeks for God.
That doesn’t mean we’re as far away from God as we could be, or that we are as wicked as we could be. But it means that we are unable to genuinely and truly seek and please God on our own.
The Apostle Paul said fallen mankind is dead in trespasses and sins. They are slaves of Satan, blinded by him. They are children of wrath.
That’s the ugly truth of this life. It’s the ugly truth about your life. But it is that ugly truth that makes the real Christmas miracles all the more beautiful.
Turn with me to First Peter chapter 2. First Peter chapter 2, verses 24 and 25. Here is where we can see what the real Christmas miracle is for us today. This is how the story of Jesus coming to this world should connect to your life today. First Peter 2:24-25.
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
As you dedicate some specific attention to the birth of Christ this week, let me give you three Christmas miracles to meditate on and to proclaim to others. This is how the birth of Christ gets connected to life today.
The first Christmas miracle is this: Sinners are forgiven and reconciled to God. Sinners are forgiven and reconciled to God.
God is under no obligation to forgive sins. But He lovingly sent His Son into the world to bring forgiveness so that sinners could be brought united to Himself. That miraculous little baby, who was placed in a manger, grew up. And He did what none of us could ever do. He lived a life perfectly obedient to the Father. There was not even a hint of sin in His life. And yet, Jesus was put to death.
The Jewish leaders and the Romans carried it out, but it was all part of God’s plan. Jesus came to this world to die so that sinners would be forgiven and reconciled to the Father. How did that happen? Verse 24 tells us—He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree.
Jesus Christ took sin upon Himself and received the wrath of God in their place. That’s what was happening at the cross. There was a transaction taking place. In the record books of God, so to speak, sin was being counted to Christ, and He received the punishment that sinners deserve.
He was beaten and whipped and nailed to a piece of wood. Why? Because He was the Substitute for sinners. And He is the only way sinners can be forgiven. You don’t have to bear the punishment of your sin! Jesus did it! The spotless, innocent, blameless Son of God bore that punishment so you wouldn’t have to.
Jesus received the death you and I deserve. And He wiped sinners’ records clean so that rather than be estranged from God forever, they would spend eternity in fellowship with Him.
How does that get connected to your life today? How do you benefit from Jesus’ sacrifice?
It happens when you come to Jesus in faith and in repentance. That’s how you get to experience this miracle for yourself.
If you will trust in Jesus Christ as the only acceptable sacrifice for sin—if you will humble yourself and confess your sinfulness to God—if you will believe that Christ died and was raised from the dead—and if you will cry out to Him for mercy, surrendering your life to Him, He will forgive you.
Stop living for yourself; stop trusting in yourself. Trust in Jesus and pledge your life to Him, willing to go wherever He leads you, and you will be forgiven by God and accepted into His family forever. That’s a true Christmas miracle. And most of you have done that already. You’ve been delivered. You’ve been freed. You’ve been forgiven.
But the work of Christ in our lives doesn’t stop there. That’s only the beginning. God doesn’t just declare someone forgiven and leave it at that. There’s a second miracle that we have in Jesus Christ.
The first miracle is sinners are forgiven and reconciled to God. The second miracle is sinners are transformed and empowered by God. Sinners are transformed and empowered by God.
The Bible says that if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. It’s a spiritual birth that God brings about. And that new birth, not only produces genuine faith, it also changes who you are.
Let’s look at verse 24 again—He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
Being forgiven by God and being declared righteous by Him is known as justification. Being made new by God and being empowered to walk in righteousness is knows as sanctification. And for those of you who trust in Christ, that is a miracle in your life.
You don’t walk with Jesus because you’re smarter than others. You don’t defeat sin because you’re stronger than other. You do so because God has empowered you to do it. He gave you a new nature with new desires.
Our sinful flesh still pulls at us. This sinful world still appeals to fleshly desires. But we have been empowered to fight against it. We’ve been freed from sin’s penalty, and we have been freed from sin’s power. We are no longer slaves to sin. We don’t have to live for Satan anymore. We don’t have to live for ourselves.
Peter says we have died to sin. Romans 7 uses the analogy of marriage. Marriage is a union that binds a man and a woman together. But, if the husband dies, the wife is free. She’s released from the law of marriage. Death brought freedom.
The same thing happens in our case. We have been freed from the grip of sin and death. Death brings freedom. But it’s not our death; it’s the death of Jesus in our place. We are united to His death, and so we are free from the power of sin in our lives. We’re not slaves of sin anymore; we are slaves of Jesus Christ. And His spirit lives within us, empowering us to live for Him.
Verse 24 says we die to sin and we live to righteousness. By His wounds we have been healed. There is a final physical healing that will come one day, but right now, what we experience is a healing from the sickness of sin in our lives. That sick heart that Jeremiah talked about has been healed. And it continues to be healed as we experience the ongoing work of God in sanctification.
Now, how does that miracle get applied in your life today? That’s simple. You walk in righteousness. You, as Philippians says, you work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
You walk in holiness. Our attitude and our decisions for righteousness are not simply an expression of self-control. They are a result of the ongoing miracle in our lives made possible by the life and death of Jesus Christ. He lives in you to empower you to walk in holiness.
And Peter, in this context, isn’t speaking generically. If you’ve been with us for the past few weeks, you know the context here. Specifically, this is about walking in hope and holiness and humility and submission, even in a wicked world with ungodly people in authority over us. That’s how Peter is applying this.
The true Christmas miracle won’t be the government lifting these restrictions or the coronavirus going away. It will be us, as God’s people, responding with humility and grace and trust in Christ.
The true Christmas miracle won’t be the bonus you get from your job or your bills being paid. It will be you, as a representative of God, demonstrating honor and respect to your boss and integrity in your work, even though he’s unreasonable. It will be you trusting in God’s perfect justice, rather than trying to fix things your way.
The true Christmas miracle won’t be perfect cookies and a perfect Christmas family photo. It will be a wife submitting in respect and in purity to an ungodly or foolish man. It will a husband treating his cruel wife with tenderness and compassion. Those are the real Christmas miracles.
Don’t settle for anything less. Don’t get caught up in whatever you think a Hollywood Christmas or a Hallmark Christmas is supposed to look like. You live out the true Christmas miracle of being transformed and empowered by God to live for His glory instead of your own. We can forgive and forbear the sins of others because Jesus bore our sins upon Himself. We can endure, and we can persevere in unjust suffering because Christ has transformed us.
You belong to God, and that means you live for Him. It also means that He cares for you.
And this brings us to our final miracle in our passage today. Miracle number 1 was: Sinners are forgiven and reconciled to God. Miracle number 2 is: Sinners are transformed and empowered by God. Miracle number 3 is this: Sinners are guarded and protected by God. Sinners are guarded and protected by God.
Verse 25 gives us some very vivid language for this. Look at it with me. Verse 25—For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.
Before Jesus came into our lives, we were doing our own thing. Straying sheep was a common sight in that culture, and it was a problem. Sheep are dumb. They can’t take care of themselves. They panic easily from things that aren’t a danger, and they are easy targets for predators.
You don’t train sheep to take care of themselves. You give them a shepherd. He guards them, and he protects them.
That’s exactly what Jesus does for us. He forgives our sin, He gives us a new nature, and He guards us eternally. If you truly belong to Christ, you can never, and you will never, fall away from Him. He holds you in His hand. He protects you.
This world has all sorts of temptations and dangers. There are so many ways we can be attacked and experience pain. But our eternal destiny is secure because of Jesus Christ. We have a sure hope.
God, who was faithful to send His Son, will be faithful to bring us to Himself. Here’s what Jesus said in John 6:37-40:
All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.
If you trust in Jesus, you have a Shepherd. You have a Guardian. He will make sure you make it home. He will watch over you.
That final, glorious resurrection in a new heavens and a new earth is known as our glorification. Just like Jesus was raised from the dead, so will you one day. You will be with Him and with His entire flock one day because He sustains you and preserves you.
You’ll probably see at least one more nativity between now and Christmas. And when you do, think of this: That baby in a manger is the Son of God. He came to earth from heaven in order to guarantee that you will have a place with Him one day in heaven. He is coming again in power and glory, and He will take you to Himself.
This is the true wonder of Christmas.
In 1843, a small church in southern France had its organ renovated. And to celebrate the event, a Christmas poem was written. It was titled Minuit, chrétiens, which means “It’s midnight, Christians.” Here’s a translation of the first part of that original French Christmas poem.
It’s midnight, Christians. It is the solemn hour when the God-man came down near to us to erase the original stain and to end the wrath of His Father. The entire world is thrilled with hope on this night which gives a Savior.
Kneel, people. Await your deliverance. It’s Christmas; it’s Christmas! Here is the Redeemer! It’s Christmas; it’s Christmas! Here is the Redeemer!
The same year that poem was written it was set to music and the song was titled Cantique de Noël, which means “A Christmas Hymn.” Twelves years later, someone wrote an English version, which we’re familiar with. We call it “O Holy Night.” The lyrics say:
O holy night! The stars are brightly shining. It is the night of our dear Savior's birth. Long lay the world, in sin and error pining, till He appeared, and the soul felt its worth. A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.
Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices! O night divine! O night when Christ was born. O night divine, O night, O night divine.
Of all the people in the world, we have the real reason to celebrate Christmas. We know what a real Christmas miracle is. Our Redeemer has come. He has brought us forgiveness and reconciliation with the Father. He was has transformed us, and He empowers us to walk in holiness and grace. And He guards us and protects us into eternity. He is the Good Shepherd.