By Samyukta Srinivasan
Many moons ago, sometime between 6 B.C. and 4 B.C., God sent angel Gabriel to Virgin Mary, to explain to her that she would be blessed with a baby by the Holy Spirit without requiring a man. She then gave birth to Jesus, her son who would supposedly save people from their sins.
Christians all over the world believe that Jesus is the light of the world, and they celebrate Christmas to honor his virgin birth – one of the most remarkable miracles found in the Bible. The festival of Christmas is entirely based on the belief of miracles, and this particular miracle is what started it all. It instilled within people the belief that this time of the year was magical, and anything was possible. It taught people to have faith and share love with one another, and it fostered peace, togetherness, and unity.
Christmas is the most magical time of the year. The festive atmosphere it creates is unparalleled, and when something extraordinary happens, it is only natural to assume that the magic in the air that is present only around this time of the year has something to do with it.
The great Christmas Truce of 1914 that happened during the first world war is an example of one of many brilliant Christmas miracles. It started when the German soldiers began to light candles and sing carols on Christmas Eve, soon to be joined by the British troops. This is celebrated as a symbolic moment of peace amidst an otherwise devastatingly violent war. Soldiers from opposing sides emerged from the trenches to meet in No Man’s Land to exchange gifts and play a game of football.
Over the years, several people have shared their own experiences for which they have no logical explanations- occurrences that they believe are miracles. They see these incidents as unexpected Christmas presents from God. Some of these stories feature people with incurable maladies who make recoveries at the eleventh hour, some tell us of estranged families reuniting, and some tell us of heartwarming occurrences that inspire happiness and hope.
Philosophers typically hold that a miracle is something that violates the laws of nature; something that is impossible. Then, the question arose- why is the belief in these extraordinary events so widespread?
Recent research conducted by psychologists claims that such a “suspension of disbelief” allow people an opportunity to seek information and learn about the world. They also say that well-known miracles, such as the virgin birth of Jesus, and his ability to turn water into wine, have one thing in common- “minimal counterintuitiveness”. This means that they spread successfully from one generation down to the next because they are slightly contrary to expectations, rather than outright ridiculous in a complex way. While they offer people an idea that is challenging enough to attract attention, they avoid overtaxing peoples’ conceptual systems.
Richard Dawkins wrote that “the 19th century is the last time when it was possible for an educated person to admit to believing in miracles like the virgin birth without embarrassment”. It seems unlikely, however, that belief in miracles will disappear any time soon. After all, millions of children are awaiting the arrival of Santa Claus in a couple of days.