One thing I love about speculative fiction is the fact that it opens the door to the impossible. It expands our vision of reality.
Years ago, people didn’t have the constraints of science as we do today. They didn’t have the skeptical, “show me” mentality of the Missourian. They believed what they couldn’t see because they’d been told it was so.
Today our response is more apt to be, Really? Those Muslim converts first heard about Jesus in a dream? Really? His behavior mirrors that of people in the Bible identified as having an evil spirit. Really?
In truth, all the events of the original Christmas would likely come under our skeptical questioning today. Think about it.
Mary was astounded. How could she not be? An angel had told her she’d get pregnant, and here she was, still a virgin, staring down into the little face of her newborn son.
As if that wasn’t enough, a group of shepherds crowded into their quarters to worship her baby. Angels, they said, had told them about this child—where he’d be born and how they could find him and how they would know him.
Then there were the two people she encountered in the temple when she and Joseph went to present Jesus according to the law. First was Simeon who said strange things: that her son would be a light to the Gentiles and a glory to Israel. Then in his blessing, Simeon added that her son was appointed as sign to be opposed. Simeon concluded with some confusing personal prophecy about a sword piercing Mary’s own soul.
Then there was the prophetess Anna who thanked God for Mary’s son and talked about him to everyone who was looking for the redemption of Israel.
All this came on the heels of her cousin Elizabeth—her barren cousin Elizabeth—getting pregnant. The angel had told Mary that would happen, too. And it was then he made the whole astounding series of events make sense: “For nothing will be impossible with God.”
The bottom line, and the only thing a person actually needs to believe in order to accept the astounding things we read about connected to that first Christmas, is that truth which Mary accepted. When the angel made his declaration about God’s greatness and power and limitless ability, Mary submitted to God—to His plans for her, His capacity to accomplish what He’d made known to her through His messenger.
She got it—that God was bigger than the laws of nature and that He was the Fulfiller of prophecy. She ought not to be a mother, but she was. The shepherds ought not to have known about her son, but they did. Simeon and Anna ought not to have declared a poor baby born to an unwed mother in a manger to be the Messiah, but they had.
Indeed, God can do the impossible.
That’s really the truth that separates people today as believers or unbelievers. If God can do the impossible, then He could take on human flesh and be born as a baby. If God can do the impossible, then He could die, once for all, the just for the unjust. If God can do the impossible, then no sin is too great for Him to forgive, no person so far from Him than He can’t reach them.
One of the worst kings in Israel’s history illustrates that point. Manasseh
erected altars for the Baals and made Asherim, and worshiped all the host of heaven and served them. He built altars in the house of the LORD of which the LORD had said, “My name shall be in Jerusalem forever.” For he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the LORD. He made his sons pass through the fire in the valley of Ben-hinnom; and he practiced witchcraft, used divination, practiced sorcery and dealt with mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking Him to anger. Then he put the carved image of the idol which he had made in the house of God (2 Chron. 33:3b-7a).
A hopeless case, right? Idol worship, child sacrifice, witchcraft. Evil. But God didn’t turn His back on Manasseh.
The LORD spoke to Manasseh and his people, but they paid no attention. Therefore the LORD brought the commanders of the army of the king of Assyria against them, and they captured Manasseh with hooks, bound him with bronze chains and took him to Babylon. When he was in distress, he entreated the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. When he prayed to Him, He was moved by his entreaty and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD was God. (2 Chron. 33:10-13)
Impossible! But no. God “was entreated by him.” God forgives. God redeems. God reconciles.
The Christmas story is both the proof that God can do the impossible and the declaration that the God who is Lord of the impossible accomplishes the miraculous.
And speculative fiction expands readers’ thinking so that we can more easily come to grips with this truth.
This article originally appeared here in 2016. For another discussion of Christmas from the archives, see “Christmas Is Too . . .” by Shannon McDermott