What is it about Christmas that stirs hope in the hearts of even the most cynical?
We catch glimpses of forgiveness, acceptance and redemption, things we humans need most, while watching old Christmas classics like Scrooge, Miracle on 34th Street, and It’s a Wonderful Life – probably because we can easily relate to what is the best and worst of who we are while watching. Surely, even the doubters among us find reason for pause upon hearing the great line from Miracle on 34th Street: “If you can’t believe, if you can’t accept anything by faith…then you’re doomed for a life dominated by doubt.”
How true. Sometimes it just makes good sense to accept the unseen. Plugged in my basement is tiny device that I depend on with my life. It detects a toxic, invisible, and odorless gas I cannot see. Although I cannot see it, I believe carbon monoxide is real because of evidence proving its existence.
So it is with Christmas and its true meaning. In his book, Science Speaks, An Evaluation of Certain Christian Evidences, Professor Peter Stoner lays out the statistical odds that one man, Jesus, could fulfill every Old Testament Messianic prophecy.
Using only eight prophecies, Stoner found: Micah 5:2 foretold the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem and calculated the odds at one in 2.8 x ten to the fifth power. Malachi 3:1 predicted the Bethlehem-born Messiah would have a “forerunner” sent to prepare the way, with odds at one in ten to the third power. Zechariah 9:9 predicted this ruler who had a forerunner was born in Bethlehem, but entered Jerusalem as a king riding on a donkey -- at one in ten to the second power. Zechariah 11:12 said this ruler would be betrayed for thirty pieces of silver -- at one in ten to the third power. Zechariah 11:13 predicted that remorse would inspire the betrayer to return the silver and the priests would use it to purchase a field from a potter, rather than return the blood money to the temple treasury -- at ten to the fifth power. Isaiah 53:7 predicted an innocent man who was betrayed, oppressed, and afflicted yet would remain silent during his trial -- at one in ten to the third power. Psalm 22:16 predicted the death of this innocent man by crucifixion, an execution method not yet invented -- at one in ten to the fourth power.
To illustrate the odds that all eight prophesies would be fulfilled in one man, Stoner translates the number, 10 to the 17th power, in silver dollars, fully covering the state of Texas two feet deep. One silver dollar is then marked, dropped from an airplane, and stirred into the mass while a blindfolded man is instructed to travel the state for as long and far as he pleases, but at some point must pick up the marked silver dollar on his first try.
Although there are more than 300 Old Testament Messianic prophecies fulfilled by Jesus’ birth some still doubt. As Albert Einstein said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it,” so maybe we ask the wrong questions. Or, maybe our perception is so tainted with skepticism it’s impossible to believe historical and scientific facts.
But for those of us who refuse to be “doomed for a life dominated by doubt,” let us draw close in the silence of this sacred moment in humble reverence that after 400 years of deafening quiet, post Old Testament final writings, God broke through the silence with his love in action. As Luke 2 describes: “But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David, a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.’”