As a retired science educator and sometime amateur stage magician I have always enjoyed presenting jaw dropping demonstrations. Unfortunately as a self confessed hard boiled cynical showman, it is one thing to organize a flash of fire, float a lady in space or more recently steal one of Dynamo’s favourite tricks but quite another to believe that someone else’s reported magic has no logical explanation.
When I first saw a stage magician turn a ten dollar note into a twenty dollar note in his open hands less than a metre in front of me, I was impressed but I assumed it was a trick not magic – and now I have purchased the same trick from Davenports magic shop on London’s embankment I am absolutely convinced the apparent magic was never real.
The other morning I heard a mysterious deep voice from the sky as I rounded the corner of Broadway and the Great South Road. “Bill Peddie, I am watching you!” Pre-Christmas Magic? Could it really be God sending me a personal message? The only problem was I recognized the distinctive voice as Terry, the local security guard, and spotted a slight movement of Terry’s cap just above the parapet of the upstairs Farmers Car Park.
What then should this hardened sceptic make of traditional Christmas stories of magic? And yes I happen to enjoy the stories and see the angels as an integral part. But, come on….actual Angels ….giving mysterious messages to Mary?
I am more than happy for Christians to recite or listen to familiar stories of angels and heavenly choirs but however much I may like these familiar legends, the literal truth of those stories is not a starter for me. If angels were common in those days how come they no longer seem to be present?
A virgin birth? My understanding is that the prophecy of being born of a Virgin was based on a mistranslation. Anyway if this were not the case why else are the two contradictory gospel genealogies of Jesus both mentioning Joseph as the father of Jesus.
If it comes to that, I don’t buy a floating star of Bethlehem accurately guiding the wise men bearing gifts to the new born Jesus?….certainly not if the star was at the expected great distance for stars. Having never encountered miracles of this sort in my world I would need more than a church authority to force me to believe that the stories were literally true.
Yet here is a thought. What if the true magic is more to do with the wonder in the eyes of the young child encountering Christmas for the first time? Each Christmas I have renewed feeling of belonging to a caring and cared for community – and believe I experience the glimpse of finding unexplained novelty which resonates in tradition and centuries old mystery. I have seen cash strapped parents care so much about buying a gift for a child that they went ahead anyway. I have seen humble Church folk offer Christmas hospitality to the lonely stranger. For me that is true magic!