One of my grandson’s was relentless with his questions. What makes the sun hot? What causes rain and thunder? How do airplanes fly? Why can a humming bird go backward and robins cannot? He had a constant barrage of questions that he wanted answered. As he got older, he wasn’t satisfied with answers like “God made the sun hot so we can enjoy summer.” He reached the point where he would not accept anything less than a response that at best sounded like I knew what I was talking about.
Most of us have had experiences with people who want answers to things that they do not understand. Today, we can at least look up things on the Internet to help us find the answers to any question. But knowing the answer may give us insights but do we really understand? All this new gained knowledge may not increase our understanding at all.
I truly believe our quest for understanding puts us at a disadvantage in living out our faith. What we normally do is to seek knowledge in order to believe. Then by gaining understanding we can come to believe enough to act on that belief. Yet often the things of faith are never fully understandable. I think that as people of faith, the proper order is to first get ourselves in a place where we can clearly hear God speaking to us – through his word; through others, through circumstantial signs and the teachings of the church. Then we have trust God and act on his word; this acting based on trust is faith. We all know that there is an aspect to our faith which requires us to believe even when we do not understand.
Today’s gospel story of Mary is one we have heard many times. We know it well. Scripture tells us that Mary was troubled by the words spoken to her. It is clear she knew it was not physically possible for what was told to her could ever be humanly possible. Mary knew she could not conceive a child without ever being intimate with a man. So she asked how this could happen. The answer to her question was that “the Holy Spirit will overshadow you and you will conceive.” Well that explained it all didn’t it?
My grandson would not have left it there. What does it mean for the Holy Spirit to overshadow you? How can natural laws be overruled? It just does not make sense for it to be possible. But it happened and today every Christian faith accepts that through the power of the Holy Spirit Mary conceived – yet if defies logic. God came to us that day in a way that we accept and believe. Today that same Holy Spirit is constantly coming to us to change us into what is inconceivable. We are changed into bold witnesses of God’s presence among us.
Much of what we believe by faith does not make sense in a world where we everything is explained with reason and science. Yet here we, week after week, come together believing in this coming of Christ to reconcile us to God. Because of that act of Mary, we daily accept and believe in the power of God to move in our lives in a way that goes beyond reasoning.
The fact that we believe Mary became the Mother of God should take us to a level faith described in God’s word as “faith enough to move mountains.” It should take us to a place that we accept more than the virgin birth. It should take us to a place where we embrace the reason for the child in her womb. It should take us to the knowledge that God did “rend the heavens and come down…bringing awesome deeds…” (Isiah 63) and continues to do those awesome deeds.
Faith in the birth of Christ is the key to understanding what his life death and resurrection means to us. It is the first step in knowing that the guilt of our sins has been removed by his death and resurrection. Like the shepherds on that night we should give glory to God for his coming. Because he came, God’s love should fill hearts so powerfully that we live lives of the redeemed. What does that look like? Look at Mary‘s next act after accepting on faith what was said to her. She simply said, “let it be done to me according to your word.” She trusted at every step of her journey of faith, all the way to the foot of the cross – she trusted and believed. This is where our faith should take us. To a place where we act daily on our belief- even in the midst of things we do not understand.
We in faith can respond as Mary and trust that God can and will work good out of the worst of things. This kind of faith guides us to using our gifts to dispense grace to others. This kind of faith leads us to a life style that glorifies Christ in our bodies instead of glorifying the world.
Mary’s faith was strong enough for her to say yes to something she had trouble understanding. Her example invites us to say yes to accept the gift God gave us in Christ. Her example invites us to say – Christ come and be born in our hearts and let it be done to me according to your will. As we celebrate Christmas, let us be eager to embrace the presence of Christ among us. Let us like Mary bring Christ to the world.