By Mark Wingfield
On most Christmas Eves, it becomes my opportunity to voice for our congregation a prayer at the candlelight services. And most years, I pray for Christmas miracles.
Just in case you’re not savvy to these finer theological points, understand that Baptist pastors don’t easily traffic in talk of miracles. We tend to leave that stuff to the Pentecostals.
I’m a believer now, though. Here’s why: I witnessed a Christmas miracle — twice in recent years.
“Miracles” aren’t limited to the parting of the sea or turning fives loaves and two fishes into a meal for thousands. Sometimes, miracles are smaller, more personal things. Sometimes, miracles involve the healing of relationships. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned as a pastor, it’s that there are a lot of ruptured relationships out there, many of them wrapped up tighter than a Christmas package.
A few years ago, a Christmas Eve gathering at our home turned out to be the place of annunciation for one such miracle — at least from my perspective. Dear friends of ours had become estranged in their marriage. Why and how are not the point. The fact that people had been praying is more important. And that afternoon, at the church’s first Christmas Eve services, I stood at the pulpit and prayed aloud with tear-filled earnestness for the “blessed peace of Christmas hope” to fall upon all who were living with estrangement and loneliness.
Sometimes when we pray, we cannot dare to believe that our prayers might actually be answered. Much to my surprise and delight, that very night as our friend stood in our kitchen during dinner, a cell phone message brought news of a breakthrough. A door was opening right before our eyes, and on Christmas Eve, no less. Returning after dinner for the late-night Christmas Eve service, I prayed with more earnestness, as if expressing the silent prayer of hundreds of people who didn’t know what was going on but surely would have joined the prayer had they known.
Hope was born that night, and not because of my prayer alone. Hope was born because my friends dared to believe, dared to trust that on this night of nights, anything might be possible with God. They were praying and hoping more than anyone. And in praying, we all found a way to express the hopes and fears of that dark night.
A couple of years later, another dear friend experienced a Christmas miracle, after praying for years for reconciliation with a long-estranged sibling. Year after year of seemingly fruitless prayer, and then, out of the blue, a phone call with an invitation to dinner. Somehow, this season of wonder opened a door for a miracle of reconciliation. Sadly, this reconciliation was more timely than ever expected, because the formerly estranged sibling died suddenly just a few months later. But reconciliation had happened.
Because of what I have witnessed, I pray every year now for Christmas miracles. Which is not to say that miracles can’t happen at other times of the year. On this night, though, it seems as though heaven and earth draw infinitely closer together. We remember the words of the angel to Mary: “With God, all things are possible.” And on Christmas Eve, the words of promise take on flesh and bone.
How silently, how silently, the wondrous gift is giv’n!
So God imparts to human hearts the blessings of his heaven.
No ear may hear his coming, but in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him still, the dear Christ enters in.