Miracles and tragedies

In the heartbreaking mix of miracle and tragedy, God is with us. Jackie Stoneman reminds us of God’s faithfulness as we long for justice.


Rev Jackie Stoneman is Principal of Mary Andrews College. She is also involved in Kairos prison ministry and a long term involvement in Myanmar.

Miracles and tragedies

God’s good purposes will be accomplished in His own time and in His own way.

Daily Reading Matthew 2

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, ‘Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.’ When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, ‘In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:
“And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who is to shepherd my people Israel.” ’

Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, ‘Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.’ When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure-chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son.’
When Herod saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was infuriated, and he sent and killed all the children in and around Bethlehem who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had learned from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what had been spoken through the prophet Jeremiah:
‘A voice was heard in Ramah,
wailing and loud lamentation,
Rachel weeping for her children;
she refused to be consoled, because they are no more.’

When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead’. Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, ‘He will be called a Nazorean.’

Do you ever wonder what God is doing? I do!

Sometimes we see God’s power at work in tremendous ways and other times we are left wondering where God is.

This reading on Christmas day from Matthew 2 raises these questions.

I wonder if Mary and Joseph grappled with these questions as they experienced the reality of the situation that is spoken about in this passage?

Mary and Joseph had experienced so many miraculous situations.

There had been the involvement of angels – personal visits – especially to Mary and then in dreams to Joseph.

There had been the tension with Joseph who must have been heartbroken when he thought Mary had been unfaithful to him, yet the expression of his love in wanting to divorce her quietly. Then there was the relief of hearing that this was all of God. How that must have blown their minds. God himself was coming to be a human being and they had been chosen – especially Mary – to enable this to happen. God’s Spirit was powerfully at work. It was truly a miraculous conception.

There had been the birth itself. At exactly the right time they had found themselves in Bethlehem with God’s provision in a crowded city for the baby Jesus to be born. Born in Bethlehem to a virgin just as the prophets had foretold.

Then there was the visit of the shepherds in response to their amazing encounter with the angelic choir as they went about their ordinary jobs.

Now there was this visit from wise men from the east. They have been guided there by a star. God is in this. It is significant that they are gentiles and they come seeking the King that they know is to be born. However, their visit results in Mary, Joseph and Jesus fleeing as refugees and untold suffering to so many families with boys under the age of 2 as Herod orders their slaughter. Where is God? This mixture of miracle and tragedy. Is God in control? What does that mean?

Yes, God is in control, protecting His Son until the time is right for him to die for the sins of the world. It is all prophesied hundreds of years before. The earthly kings may seem powerful but they do not have ultimate power. God’s good purposes will be accomplished in His own time and in His own way.

This Christmas day, as we weep at the unbelievable suffering in our world and perhaps in our own lives, as we see our planet in chaos with few people prepared to care, as we remember the millions of displaced people in our world and the hopelessness that engulfs so many people, let us remember that God is in control. The wise men were right: Jesus is the King who is born according to God’s plan. The one who is crowned with a brutal crown of thorns on the cross also triumphantly rises to life and will come again as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

This Christmas day let us lift up our heads with hope for our God does reign. The suffering will one day end but while we wait we have a God who is with us, enabling us to serve Him in this broken world with purpose, truth and love.

We Are Longing: An Advent series from Common Grace