A Miracle: Thirty Years Later

“Do you believe in miracles?”

Thirty years later, I still get goosebumps watching the umpteenth replay of the 1980 semi-final Olympic hockey game between the US and the Soviet Union. (Yes, the US team actually had to play another, defeating Finland 4-1 for the gold medal.) Each time, I experience the tension of those frantic final seconds, waiting for Al Michaels’ triumphant question that sounded more like a long-awaited answer to his shouted question.

Yes Al, I believe in miracles.

Einstein once wrote, “There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” For most of us who are neither skeptics nor mystics, I believe this event qualifies as a miracle. Not  because none of the experts predicted or even imagined that an amateur group of plucky but unpolished hockey players could somehow defeat an “invincible” Soviet juggernaut that had humiliated NHL All Star teams. Not because no one except the coach and his players believed they could win. But because this most improbable of victories came during a time when most people had stopped believing in miracles.

No one believed in miracles except Herb Brooks and his team. And then, we all did.

The miracle on ice meant so much to so many, but for coach Herb Brooks, it meant much more. It wouldn’t be too much of an exaggeration to say that it was the instrument of his redemption.

Twenty years earlier, the 23-year-old Brooks was the last player cut from the 1960 USA Olympic squad, the last American hockey team to win the gold medal. Herb Brooks watched his teammates win the gold medal without him, he watched the game on a black-and-white television, sitting at home with his dad. One can only imagine his thoughts during such a bittersweet moment, happiness for his teammates mixed with bitter disappointment at coming so close.

Afterwards when his teammates stood to receive their gold medals, Herb’s dad turned to him and said: “Well, I guess that goes to show they cut the right guy.”

I can only imagine how much those words must have hurt. I can only imagine what terrible personal demons must have haunted Brooks for so long. But after twenty years in the wilderness, when the American team he led stood up to receive their gold medals, the crowd shouting “U.S.A. U.S.A.”, Brooks’ inner demons were expelled, and not only his sorrows, but those of a nation were healed.

When Jesus was crucified, only his mother and one of His disciples stayed with him until the bitter end. The rest all scattered and fled, demoralized and defeated, ashamed and afraid. No one could have anticipated or predicted anything like what happened when the tomb was found empty. But it’s because of this miracle, the most unbelievable miracle of all, that we as Christians have always known the answer to Al Michael’s question: Do you believe in miracles?

We believe in miracles because He is risen.

He is risen indeed, Hallelujah!

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