The mystery and miracle of nothing
John 1:1-3 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.
You may not be able to get blood out of a turnip or make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, but if you’re God, well, no sweat. His daily occupation is making something out of nothing. From dead dirt He molds a living man. From a piece of bone He builds a lovely bride.
A ninety-year-old Sarah giggles when from her aged womb springs the life of Isaac. Aaron’s staff swallows snakes. Gideon is able to squeeze a bowlful of water out of a fleece. A boulder becomes a drinking fountain (or here in Wisconsin a “bubbler”) for thirsty Israelites in the desert.
This is no magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat. This is simply God, the one and only, displaying His glory for all to see. It is all in a day’s work for the almighty God of heaven and earth. He is always pulling everything out of nothing by means of His almighty Word.
First God made flesh out of dust. Later God made that flesh cover His Son. He took everything that is human – body and soul, eyes, ears, and all our members – and pulled them into God. “not by changing the deity into flesh, but by taking the humanity into God” (Athanasian Creed). This happened so that God got hungry; God sucked His thumb; God laughed; God cried; God went to school, made friends, and grew a beard.
It all started when sin was born into the world. Adam was created out of the dirt and when he died he would become the dust of the earth again. Eve had given birth to pain and tears and bloodshed. Eden had once been a perfect garden. After Eden had become a valley of the shadow of death.
This is the world in which we now live. We must daily contend with guilt and shame and heartache and pain. We are equally afraid of cancer and terrorism and poverty and dementia.
God needed to fix the creation that His creatures had broken. You know that if you want to fix something right, you fix it yourself. That’s what God did. So the Word which had been used to create all of creation then became the Word-made-man.
God had performed other miraculous births in the Bible. Isaac was born to Sarah in her old age. Hannah’s womb was opened so she gave birth to Samuel. Manoah had a wife who was unable to give birth until the angel of the Lord announced that Samson would be their son. Elizabeth gave birth to the forerunner of the Christ, even though she was too old to have children.
But the Virgin Mary is greater than all of them. The miracle that she carried in her womb was far superior to all those other miracles. For the One to whom she gave birth, nursed at her breast and cuddled on her lap was none other than the Son of God. Mary is rightly called in the Greek “Theotokos” – “the God-bearer” or “The Birth-Giver of God.”
This is an unfathomable mystery. A miracle above all other miracles. The incarnation. God takes our human nature into His divinity. He is conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary.
That is the mystery of Christmas—the majesty of God’s gracious plan. The mystery and miracle of nothing.
To save us from our sin, God’s Son became human just like us. As a human He could place Himself under God’s Law and earn our place in heaven by His perfect life. As a human He could take our place under God’s wrath, suffering and dying for our sins and disobedience. Being God His shed blood was able to pay for the sins of the whole world. Being God He could — and did — defeat Satan, sin and hell for all of us.
Using the Word, God made Adam and Eve to be His first children. Using the Word made flesh, God has adopted you and me as His own sons and daughters (Ephesians 2:5).
Whether it is making Adam and Eve out of dust and bone or creating life in a womb that is barren or causing water to flow out of a rock, nothing is too difficult for our God. He performs these miracles for the well-being of His people.
But when it comes to salvation, God outdoes Himself. He performs a miracle unlike any other. God takes on human flesh. The God whom the universe cannot contain contains Himself within the womb of an unwed teenager. The God who deserves the unending praise of saints and angels settles for the praise of some smelly shepherds. The God who merits gifts beyond compare accepts the gifts of gold, incense, and myrrh.
Nothing was made without the Word of God. So the Word of God made Himself nothing, taking on the nature of a servant so that He might save us. This is a profound mystery. It is a miracle above all miracles. It is the mystery and miracle of nothing. The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. Amen.