Strategic Lessons of Faith from the First Christmas Miracle
Just over 2000 years ago a miracle, that would change world history, occurred when a young, unmarried Jewish woman—a virgin—supernaturally conceived and gave birth to a Son whom she named “Jesus” in obedience to the word delivered to her by the angel Gabriel. This first Christmas miracle set in motion all the ensuing miracles that occurred in the life and ministry of Jesus, the miracle of His resurrection, the miracle of His ascension, the miracle of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and all the miracles of God that have occurred down to the present time. In this essay I have identified 5 important lessons from Mary’s encounter with the angel (Luke 1:26-38) that are crucial for us as we believe God for miracles in our lives today.
(1) This miracle was initiated by God.
Mary was not straining in faith, prayer, and spiritual warfare trying to produce this miracle. This was a God-thing. There is no question that she had positioned herself for this miracle by a life of purity before God; but there was no initiative on her part for this specific miracle. Mary merely responded in faith to God’s initiative.
The emphasis today seems to be on human initiative, i.e., what we can do to generate miracles. One only has to look at the “how to” books that crowd the shelves of most Christian bookstores—“5 Steps to Your Financial Miracle” or “10 Keys to Your Miracle Healing,” etc., etc. Miracles have become commercialized and professionalized. Just listen to the grand offers of presumptuous preachers who offer miracles on demand, usually tied to a love offering to their ministry. In the midst of this preoccupation with ourselves and what we can do, it is all too easy to forget that God Himself has thoughts and plans and that He acts according to His own sovereign will.
The wise thing for us, therefore, is to seek with all our hearts to know and understand His thoughts, His plans, and His will. Let’s not be so quick to make our plans and then “storm heaven” asking God to bless our plans. Instead, let’s get His plan and cooperate with His plan, for His plan is already blessed. Mary cooperated with His plan in the making of that first Christmas miracle.
(2) This miracle was beyond Mary’s ability to comprehend.
How can this be, since I do not know a man, was Mary’s response to Gabriel’s announcement. Her point was that, as a single woman committed to a life of purity and godliness, there was no way this could happen. God’s promise (vision) for our lives will always exceed our understanding of how it can happen, and our ability to make it happen. God’s revealed promise and plan will cause us to also ask, “How can this be?” God’s promise and plan for our lives will only happen as we learn to walk with Him in absolute, unequivocal trust.
This reminds me of Abraham and Sarah who had received a promise from God that they would have a son; but Sarah was barren and unable to have children. It was a “how can this be” moment for them.
Instead of trusting God as Mary would later do, they took matters into their own hands. Abraham took Sarah’s handmaid, Hagar, and had a son by her whom he named Ishmael. God let them know, however, that Ishmael was their idea, not His. They had to come to the place wherein they acknowledged that they were unable and helpless in themselves to bring about the fulfillment of the promise. They put their trust completely in God—not in themselves—and when Abraham was 100 and Sarah was 90, the miracle occurred and Isaac was born.
Like with Mary (and Sarah and Abraham) God’s plan for your life and mine is bigger than we are. We do not have the abilities or the resources to make it happen. We can try and make it happen in our own strength, but all we will do is bring forth another Ishmael. We may call it by a spiritual sounding name, but it is still an Ishmael. So why not learn our lesson now, and determine that we are going to trust and cooperate with Him totally and unequivocally to fulfill the promises He has made.
(3) This miracle would come forth, not by human effort, but through the power of the Holy Spirit.
In answer to Mary’s question of “how can this be,” the angel Gabriel said, The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Highest will over shadow you (Luke 1:35). This is also the answer for all our impossibilities--The Holy Spirit will come upon you. As to how a small, insignificant group of disciples could take the gospel to all the world, Jesus said in Acts 1:8, But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you.
We must, therefore, relinquish all trust in ourselves and yield our lives totally to Him. As we cooperate with Him, He will turn all our impossibilities into possibilities. As the prophet Zechariah said concerning how Israel could overcome the impossible circumstances they faced, Not by (human) might, nor by (earthly) power, but by My Spirit says the Lord of Hosts (Zechariah 4:6).
I can’t tell you how many times, in my own life, the Holy Spirit has provided the answer and the strength for impossible situations I have faced. He did it for Mary. He will do the same for you. Acknowledge aloud now that you choose to yield yourself to the Spirit of God and invite Him to be your strength, wisdom, and very life.
(4) The promise was like a seed with the potential power of fulfillment already inherent in that promise.
To the promise he is delivering from God, Gabriel adds the words, For with God nothing shall be impossible (NKJV). The Greek text literally reads, No rhema from God is void of power. A rhema is a particular word or promise for a specific situation. When God gives a promise, the power of fulfillment is inherent in that promise.
In Scripture, God’s word is often compared with seed because a seed has within itself the potential power to produce the desired end results. For example, to have a harvest of corn you do not have to know all the science of how a seed of corn germinates and grows into a mature stalk bearing multiple ears of corn. You simply have to put the seed in the ground and look after it because the seed has the power within itself to produce the end results.
The same is true of every rhema or word from God. It has within itself the power to produce the desired end results. Our part is to allow the seed to be planted in our hearts and then guard or steward that promise until we see it mature and bring forth the promised fruit or fulfillment (Luke 8:15). Once when struggling over the “mechanics” of how to build a church, I heard the Holy Spirit say, “Preach my word and the church will emerge and come forth.”
(5) Mary’s faith response sealed the deal.
Let it be to me according to your word (Luke 1:38), was Mary’s response to Gabriel’s final explanation concerning how the miracle would happen. She is saying, in effect, “I recognize that it is naturally impossible but, nonetheless, Let it be to me according to your word.” This was the faith response for which Gabriel was looking and with it, he departed. Mary then departed to visit her cousin Elizabeth who, upon seeing her, exclaimed by the Spirit, Blessed is she who believed for there will be a fulfillment of those things that were told her from the Lord. Mary’s response is the sort of faith response we too must give to the promises of God. Let it be to me according to your word.
This reminds me of Luke 5:5 where Jesus, after using Peter’s boat from which to teach, instructed Peter to launch out in the deep and let down his nets for a catch. Peter responded that he had just fished all night without catching a single fish, Nevertheless, at Your word, I will let down the net. Peter acted on the word of Jesus and caught so many fish that his nets began to break and his boats began to sink from the weight of the fish.
Both Mary and Peter were blessed because they believed the promise, not because they had some special status with God. We too are blessed when we embrace the promise and say with Mary, Let it be to me according to your word, or with Peter, At your word I will let down the net.
In the miracle of the catch of fish, Peter was so astounded that when he came to shore he fell at the feet of Jesus and acknowledged His Lordship. Mary too was astounded at the miracle birth of Jesus the Son of God. I truly believe that understanding the principles above can help us move into a place where the miracles in our lives will be so far beyond our own faith and abilities that we too will be astounded and in awe of what God does. This happened to Mary. It happened to Peter and has happened to countless others since that time. It can happen to you and me.