I believe in Christmas miracles. Several years ago, Reader’s Digest published one such miracle. “At Christmastime,” Dave Grinstead of Bellingham, Washington, wrote, “Our family was on the way from Seattle to a new assignment on the East Coast and we stopped in Watertown, South Dakota. It was not the best time to travel with young children, who were rightfully concerned about Santa finding us on the road.

“Headed into town on Christmas Eve, our car approached an intersection. There was a Santa right in the crosswalk. He held up his hand for us to stop, and we rolled down our windows. Santa poked his head in and said to our kids, ‘Oh, there you are. I was wondering where I’d find you tonight.’

“Naturally, the kids were thrilled to pieces. We told Santa which motel we were staying at so he could find them. My wife and I had tucked away gifts for the trip, as we knew we wouldn’t have time to shop along the way.

“The cartop carrier and out-of-state license plate might have been giveaways, but whatever it was, that Santa really made a Christmas miracle in 1961 for our kids.”

That’s a good miracle story, one of making wishes come true. Still, I prefer Christmas miracles of transformation, miracles of finding new meaning in life or of new life itself. And believe me, they exist.

Most scientists would call them not miracles but “coincidences.” They’d call them happenstance, naturally occurring quirks and twists of fate and the development of events in the absence of any obvious design, well within the confines of chance.

Not so, in my opinion. I have faith in miracles. “Faith,” as Martin Luther King Jr. said, “is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” I’ll take that faith, step into the unknown — into wonder and mystery and ambiguity and into believing in more than chance — especially at Christmastime.

So no scientist is going to convince me through studies and laboratory experiments that miracles don’t exist. I’ve experienced one with my own eyes.

My mother-in-law, Mary Burke, had been effectively comatose for weeks. She suffered from Parkinson’s disease and Shy-Drager syndrome, which manifests itself in uncontrollable blood pressure. She had been confined to a wheelchair in a nursing unit in High Point.

At 89 years of living, she had had a good life raising four kids to productive, contributive, loving adulthood. She had been graced with six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. She loved chocolate and off-color jokes.

But she didn’t want to be living as she was, her body failing a still-sharp mind. In the past weeks she had been rarely lucid, asleep most of the time, and withering away, due to very little nourishment and no exercise. Her wish was to have no extraordinary methods used to prolong her life. Grimacing in her constant slumber, she had been given small doses of morphine to minimize her pain from what her doctors and medical staff said were ministrokes.

Assigned to the “final step,” her hospice nurse and social worker told us just before Christmas that she was “transitioning” — that death could come any time. They asked us what Mary was like as a younger woman, when she was vibrant and free. They promised sympathetically that they would be there for Mary.

We had gathered in High Point not only anticipating Mary’s death but also for a family Christmas observation that Mary had so hoped to attend. And then the Christmas miracle.

The day of the family Christmas celebration, after weeks of unconsciousness, Mary awoke. Completely lucid, communicative and hopeful, she ate and drank more than she had in weeks.

Bathed, her hair done, makeup applied, broad smile on her face, matriarch of her family, wheeled into the room in a reclining wheelchair, Mary became enveloped, group-hugged and honored by her family during their Christmas celebration. All her kids, grandkids and great-grandkids were there.

We told stories about her and told the jokes she was famous for telling herself. We sang Christmas carols at her request. We reminisced. Mary ate Hungarian kolaches — sugar dusted, walnut filled Christmas cookies — that her daughter and granddaughter baked in her honor. Mary said they tasted just like those her own Hungarian-born mother used to make.

Mary’s rallying was a mere respite from her inevitable trip. But her unexpected awakening in time for her family Christmas celebration — a revival she must have willed herself to do even from her unconscious state — was truly a miracle for her and for her family.

It’s the Season of Believing.

And I believe — and hope you do, too — that Christmas miracles occur. I witnessed one performed through Mary Burke at Christmastime.

Have a Christmas Miracle story of your own? If you care to share it, let me know.

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