The Miracle Of Mercy
Rev. Bryn MacPhail
What does Christmas mean to you? This is a question I hear a lot this time of year.
Typically, it has been those who profess some sort of allegiance to Jesus Christ
that answer this question, but not anymore. If you have read the Toronto Star recently,
you may have come across articles where Muslims, Jews, and Hindus give their answer
to the question: "What does Christmas mean to you?".
That is a fair enough question to ask, but let me suggest to you that it is not
question. This time of year, the best
question to ask is, "What does Christmas mean
?"--not "what does Christmas mean to you or me?", but "what does Christmas mean?
The distinction here is important. I could tell a police officer that a yellow light
means to me
that I should speed through the intersection, but I am sure that the officer has
no interest in what the yellow light "means to me". What is important to the police
officer, and what should
be important to me, is what the yellow light means
For this reason, I confess to you that I often get my back up when people begin telling
me "what Christmas means to them". In fact, this kind of talk almost ruined one of
my favourite T.V. shows the other night.
I was watching the show, "Due South"--a Canadian produced show about an R.C.M.P. officer
working in Chicago as a policeman. At the end of the show, the main character, Fraser,
stood up to talk about what Christmas meant to him. As he did, I could feel my sarcastic side kick into overdrive--"Here we go again", I thought. I was sure Fraser
was going to tell me how Christmas was all about "tolerance", or that it was all
about "helping one another", but he didn't. Instead, Fraser insisted that Christmas
was all about "forgiveness".
"That is it!", I exclaimed. Finally someone had got it right. Christmas is about forgiveness
. Now, I don't want you to take Fraser's word for it, and I don't even want you to
take my word for it--but I invite you, take the apostle Matthew's word for it.
In the Gospel of Matthew, we read that "an angel of the Lord" visited Joseph to inform him that Mary was carrying a child conceived by the Holy
Spirit(1:20). The angel goes on to tell Joseph that "(Mary) will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save
His people from their sins"(1:21).
Jesus was born, Jesus came to this earth, to save people from their sins. Scripture
tells us that all of humanity had gone astray. All of humanity was guilty before
God. All of humanity needed their sins to be forgiven.
Jesus, therefore, was born to us, in order to die for us. The death of Christ was
intended to be the means to forgiveness for all who put their trust in Christ. The mission of Christ was to accomplish forgiveness for those who would come to trust
For some people, this is a difficult concept to comprehend. It is difficult to measure
forgiven sins. If my bank were to forgive me of my debt, I could measure that by
the $0.00 on my monthly statement. But for someone to say that my sins can be forgiven--well that is difficult to measure.
Thankfully, our heavenly Father does not leave us without sufficient testimony to
His capabilities. To demonstrate His infinite power and trustworthiness, He sent
His Son into the world through the womb of a virgin, and took His Son from the world
by raising Him bodily from the dead.
These miracles--the miracle of the virgin birth and the miracle of Christ's bodily
Resurrection--are demonstrations that God is capable of this miracle of mercy--the
miracle of forgiving us of our sins.
One of the difficulties, however, is that the miracle of the virgin birth--a miracle
intended to help
us put faith in God's forgiving power--has become, for some, a stumbling block for
I am reminded of the time when a young lady approached me at a friend's get-together
when she heard I was a minister. I had never met this young lady before that night,
but when she heard I was a minister she came right over to me and said "I don't believe in God, you know".
Taken by surprise as I was, I simply said that she was entitled to believe as she
Then she asked me a question: "You don't believe in the virgin birth do you? Everybody
knows, you have to have sex to have a baby".
After pausing for a moment--taken back by her boldness--I declared to her that I did
believe strongly in the virgin birth, but before I allowed her the opportunity to
respond to my answer, I asked her a couple of questions:
"Let me get this straight", I began, "so you don't
believe in God?".
"That's right", she responded.
"And you don't believe in the virgin birth?".
"No I don't", she replied.
"Now before you evaluate my belief in the virgin birth, keep these things in mind:
believe in the existence of God. And I believe that this God is a powerful and personal
God. And I believe this God created the Universe and everything in it". Then I asked
her, "Now if this God exists, don't you think--in light of His power--that a virgin birth would be fairly easy to accomplish? That compared with creating our Universe,
a virgin birth was pretty much "small potatoes" for a God of this magnitude?".
At this, she nodded and smiled, and the conversation ended. This young lady, though
not converted to my way of thinking, now understood that her disbelief in the virgin
birth was simply a necessary conclusion for someone who did not believe in God. And
by the same token, she understood that my insistence on the virgin birth logically followed
my belief in a powerful and personal God.
Now after saying all that, I don't want you to only be consumed by the miracle of
the virgin birth. The greatest miracle of Christmas is, in fact, the miracle of mercy
. The greatest miracle is that God loved sinful humanity so much that He became human
to save us. God became one of us to save us from our sins. God became one of us in
order to forgive us.
This is why we celebrate. This is why we should be so full of joy and peace--because
Christ has made peace between God and man.
And since God has been merciful to us, it is only appropriate that, this season and
seasons, we be merciful to one another. Amen.