(A message delivered on December 9, 2018 during worship services at River’s Edge and Chateau Senior Living homes in Sacramento Ca.)
In the bible there are many examples of God doing extraordinary miracles through ordinary people. I am going to discuss five of those examples.
(Read the Gospel of Luke Chapter 1, Verses 5-25)
The first two we learn about, in the first chapter of the gospel of Luke, are the Hebrew Priest Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth. In verse 6, Luke tells us that both Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in the sight of God, meaning they did what they did to exalt the Lord alone. This was unlike many of the priests at that time who tried to make a good showing for others. They lived in a small village in the south region of Jerusalem rather than an elite luxurious city. And they had problems just like ordinary people including two big problems that only a miracle from God could solve. The first was that they had no children. A huge social stigma was attached to being childless at this time of history. So much so that in their society, barrenness was a commonly accepted grounds for divorce.
Their second problem was that they were “well advanced in years” so much so that having a child would have been impossible under normal circumstances. But, as nothing is impossible for God, not only did he bless them with a son, but that son was the man we call John the Baptist. As the angel Gabriel said about John the Baptist in Luke Chapter 1:15-17; “he will be great in the Lord’s sight…and filled with the Holy Spirit” … he will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God…he will go ahead of the Lord…strong and mighty like the prophet Elijah”. And just as God had commanded, Zacharias named the baby John, which mean “The Lord is gracious”. Jesus himself, in Matt 11:14 would say about John “…he is Elijah who is come”.
Zacharias and Elizabeth…two ordinary people who God chose to do extraordinary things through and bless with an extraordinary miracle.
The third ordinary person, also in the first chapter of Luke, is Mary the young woman God chose to be the mother of Jesus. Mary was a young virgin woman probably not much older than 12- or 13-years old, living in the town of Nazareth and promised to be married to a man named Joseph. For a young Jewish woman living at that time there was nothing extraordinary about that. But God had extraordinary plans for Mary. As verses 26-35 explain, God sent the angel Gabriel to this ordinary woman with a message and a mission. The angel reassured her that, “God has been gracious with you. You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High God.” Mary asks Gabriel; How? I am a virgin? But God had a plan and by the power of the Holy Spirit Mary became pregnant.
Mary responds to the news in verse 38 saying “Behold, the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” The Greek translation for this word “handmaid” or, as some translations say “servant”, is the lowest form of servanthood. This is a bond slave, a “doule”. She is saying; ”I am the Lord’s slave or bondmaid to do the will of God with humility and submission.” A completely humble ordinary person that God uses for an extraordinary purpose… by the power of the Holy Spirit to become the mother of the savior of the world.
The fourth person we learn about in the second chapter of the gospel of Luke verses 8-20, is actually a group of ordinary folks who participated in an extraordinary miracle. They are the shepherds who the angels appeared to. We don’t know how many there were, but the Bible refers to shepherds, so we know there were more than one. God chooses the shepherds to be the first people to be told about the birth of Jesus.
In biblical times the job of the shepherd was a very ordinary. By the time Jesus was born the population of Palestine had grown and most people engaged in some sort of animal husbandry and agriculture. The job of a shepherd was considered unskilled labor and they were in the lower class of society. While this job was not as well respected with people in Jesus’ time, God did not consider it so. The bible has many references to the shepherd including the metaphor of God as our shepherd. Many of the great leaders in the Old Testament were shepherds including; Abraham, Moses and David. Jesus describes himself in John 10: 11 as; “the good shepherd, who is willing to die for His sheep.” In Genesis 49:24 Jacob refers to God as “the Shepherd, the Protector of Israel.”
These ordinary Galilean shepherds were chosen for an extraordinary purpose…to hear from an army of heaven’s angels about, and to be witness to, the new born baby that was to be the savior and redeemer of the world…JESUS! And as Luke 2: 20 says “The shepherds went back, singing praises to God for all they had heard and seen just as they were told.” They became the first to tell others of this wonderful event. They were some of the first evangelists.
So, what’s the last of our fifth extraordinary Christmas miracles and who is the ordinary person who experienced it? It’s you and me. This Christmas season I would like you to think about this; we ordinary Christians are witness to, and the undeserving recipients of the most extraordinary miracle of all, the miracle of our salvation. It’s the miracle of our salvation and how God made it happen, how He executed His perfect plan, from the beginning of time. This miracle is so magnificent that just thinking about it should bring us to our knees in awe and thankfulness every day. As it was foretold by the prophets and proclaimed by armies of angels. That our perfect sovereign God would send his son to earth as a baby born to a virgin girl. His name is Jesus. And as He grew, He lived a perfect life, loving even the most unlovable people, teaching, healing, and giving hope to a fallen world. And then he died an unthinkable death. But not for long because Jesus conquered the cross and was raised from the dead and now sits at the right hand of God. And all this so that whoever believes in Him is given…freely…the miracle of eternal life with Him. WOW! Doesn’t it just make you want to be like one of the shepherds and sing praises to God and tell everyone you see! You and I, ordinary people, through our belief in Jesus, are recipients of the greatest miracle of all, the miracle of our salvation.
In the bible Paul writes in his letter to the Philippians 3:7-11; “But Christ has shown me that what I once thought was valuable is worthless. Nothing is as wonderful as knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have given up everything else and count it all as garbage. All I want is Christ and to know that I belong to him. I could not make myself acceptable to God by obeying the Law of Moses. God accepted me simply because of my faith in Christ. All I want is to know is Christ and the power that raised him to life. I want to suffer and die as he did, so that somehow I also may be raised to life.”
Praise God and Merry Christmas friends!
Christmas Cardinal Painting By Marianne Gonzales
(Acrylic on Canvas)
The Cardinal has become a symbol of Christmas. Its bright red color represents the warmth and beauty of the season and brings cheer during the drab gray winter days. The cardinal’s red color should also be a reminder for us to focus on the blood of Christ that was shed for the redemption of all humankind.