This time of year fills me with a sense of awe and wonder.
It’s the time of year that I choose to deeply ponder the coming of Christ in flesh. The reminders are all around me; the house is decorated for the month long ‘birthday party’. The city streets in our rural communities have their wreaths attached to the light poles reminiscent of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’.
One of the things that I wonder about though, is this: ‘Did Mary have a wonderful life?’ She was the one chosen to carry and birth and raise the son of God. Religions revere her, some even pray to her as if she is a holy icon. She was just a girl. A girl with a heart of faith and trust and submission. She was chosen, but it was not through a ‘pageant’ where the winner won the right to carry the son of God. Basically, it was not about her, it was about God and his promised covenant and it was the right time.
‘How can this be?’ was her question to the angel who bore the news. It was not a question of disbelief. It was a question with an underlying tone of acceptance. Imagine what our lives would look like if instead of questioning God on whether he knows what he is doing or demanding a ‘sign’ that what he is saying is true, we simply believed. We simply trusted.
One of the many truths he whispers to us is this: he is for us. What if we said, ‘How can it be?’ instead of ‘How can I know this is true?’ Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist had a heavenly visitor as well, but his response is remarkable different, but the significance can be easily missed. He wanted to intellectually wrap his brain around the angel’s news rather than embrace it with a heart of faith.
It could be the large age difference between Zechariah and Mary that birthed the two very different responses. We could justify Zechariah’s response by saying that he probably sought God for years on this very subject (the desire for a child), and years passed with the answer of ‘no’. I understand where he is coming from. I think we all have petitioned God for something or someone and the answer we receive is not the deeply desired ‘yes’, but the deeply feared ‘no’.
Mary, a young woman, not hardened by the burdens and seasons of life, had the faith of a child. A faith we are all called to have. A faith that can only come from the Father. Even that is amazing! We don’t have to stir up this faith on our own, we simply have to believe and let him build our faith. No matter our age.
Do you think Zechariah ever doubted the Lord’s goodness and ways again? He had more than nine months to wrestle with his need for ‘reassurance’, all the while seeing with his own eyes the Lord’s plan unfolding–whether he believed the Lord or not. Could he have been bursting to share with others what God had done for him and Elizabeth?
But I think there is a bigger picture here than what we see on the surface.
It wasn’t about Zechariah and Elizabeth at all.
It wasn’t about Mary at all.
It wasn’t about the key players in the Christmas story.
It was about God and his plan to redeem the world.
To redeem you and me. And that is the greatest gift.
But even then it’s not about us.
What would happen if we changed our perspective on answered prayer or unanswered prayer, whichever way you want to look at it, and saw not through the lens of receiving blessing, but we saw through the lens of what God wants in the overall big picture of this world, and how he wants us to bless him, through it all.
Through all the yes’ and all the no’s.
We can turn it all into praise.
We can accept, with a faith filled heart, his promise that he is for us, asking, ‘How can it be?’, and then watch the Lord’s promise unfold in ways that take out breath away.