Miraculous signs at Jesus’ birth
The Rev. Kathy Brumbaugh, Special Writer
Background text: Luke 1:5-25
Devotional text: Luke 2:22-38
In these past few weeks, we have been celebrating the birth story of Jesus as found in our Bibles. We’ve read the annunciation of his birth to Mary by the angel Gabriel and about Gabriel explaining the coming birth to Joseph, Mary’s betrothed.
We’ve learned of Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, who in her old age was to give birth to a son who would be named John, the one we would know as John the Baptist. John would be full of the Holy Spirit from birth, and it is he who would lead people to repentance in preparation for the coming Messiah.
All of this miraculous information can be found in the first chapter of the gospel of Luke and in Matthew 1:18-24. Gabriel was the same angel who came to both Mary and Joseph, at separate times, to proclaim the birth of Jesus.
Then, in Luke 2:8-20, we read again about angels, this time about the angel appearing to the shepherds in their field at night, to proclaim the birth of the Christ Child in the Town of Bethlehem. This angel was followed by a whole host from the heavenly realm, offering praises “to God in the highest … ”
Following the angelic visit, the shepherds went into Bethlehem to visit the Christ Child themselves, after which they spread the good news of his birth to everyone they met. Mary kept an account of all these miraculous happenings surrounding her son stored in her heart.
During the last two weeks, we were introduced to the visitation of the Magi which was written about in Matthew 2:1-14. Even though we know their visit took place months after his birth, it is included in the manger birth story as tradition and is yet another miraculous moment surrounding Jesus’ birth.
The Magi had seen his birth star in the east, and it guided them to where he was in Bethlehem, stopping over the house he lived in at that time. Again, it was the kingly gifts and the worship of people who were Gentiles that touched Mary’s heart.
Today, we go back to Jesus’ birth month and read about the day Mary and Joseph brought him to the temple in Jerusalem to fulfill the purification law of the firstborn. In Luke 2:22-35, we find Simeon, a devout man who regularly went to the temple in Jerusalem to worship and to pray. Scripture tells us he was filled with the Holy Spirit on that day Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to the temple.
The Holy Spirit had promised Simeon he would not die until he saw the Messiah. Nudged by the Spirit to go to the temple that day, Simeon saw Jesus in the arms of Mary as she carried him inside. Upon seeing the baby, Simeon had his epiphany, knowing that this was the child he had been waiting for. In prophesying over the child, he said in verses 29 through 32 that Jesus would be the salvation of Israel and a light to the Gentiles. He also told Mary about future sadness surrounding her son as he fulfilled his place on earth.
Following Simeon’s prophecy, we read about Anna in verses 36 to 38. Anna was a prophetess who lived in the temple, worshiping God and praying to him day and night. At the age of 84, she too was present at the presentation of Jesus. Being a Spirit-filled woman, she too prophesied over Jesus, calling him “the redemption of Jerusalem.”
Once again, Mary would remember these moments from God and keep them as precious memories in her heart.
Age-wise, we do not hear about Jesus again in the Bible until he was 12, when he came to celebrate the Passover feast in Jerusalem with his parents, as recorded in Luke 2:41-46. From childhood to age 12, we do not know what else took place in the life of Jesus. After that, the next time we see him he is 30 and getting ready to begin his earthly ministry.
Yes, there are legends that have built up concerning his life as a child. However, there is no recorded information in our Bibles that can lead us to the truth. And so, we take what we have learned about his early life and, like Mary, hold the miraculous signs of his human beginning in our hearts.
We thank God that we have these biblical scriptures that explain to us the coming of Jesus to earth. Right away we get to know that he is no normal child. He is the Christ.
So should we be awed and overwhelmed. This was no ordinary birth. This is why we celebrate Christmas Eve by singing carols about the events surrounding his birth. This is why we light the candles of Advent and the Christ candle on Dec. 24. This is why we hear the telling of the story again and again. This is why we should share the story with our children and others who may not know of it.
No matter how many times we celebrate the Christmas season, including the coming of the Magi, and the presentation of Jesus in the temple a month after his birth, we have to respond to the miracles. We have to be excited about what will come next.
The gospel of John, also known as the spiritual gospel, tells the story of Jesus’ coming to earth in a little different way. John’s gospel begins with the Word of God, who is Jesus, telling us the Word became flesh. In John’s words, we don’t have to wonder who Jesus is; we know unequivocally.
Jesus — God with us — the God who never leaves us but calls us to him. That is who Jesus is; that is why we celebrate this season each year as it comes around.
That is why, as we enter a New Year, we have the hope of Jesus, born of the love of God, the One who sees us through times of troubles and celebrates with us in times of joy. Let us forever hold his miraculous coming as joy in our hearts.