Let’s be real about this…

Let’s be real about this. Even for people of “faith,” it’s not always effortless to have “faith” or “believe” in something, is it? For most of us there is an effort that requires choosing to believe, to trust, to have faith. Would that this gift be a more automatic response in the matters that truly count! But a virgin giving birth? Today it’s not as much a miracle due to medical advances. Ichoose to believe this occurs. It probably happens daily. Now the prospect of a virgin giving birth 2000 years ago . . .  . . . and claiming this child was the Son of God . . . . this was not an easy“sell” for Mary or eventually for Joseph, Jesus’ earthly Daddy. Who but God himself could have orchestrated such a beginning?

Without Mary saying a word about her pregnancy to her cousin, Elizabeth confirmed to Mary prophetically what was told to Mary by the angel Gabriel. Elizabeth chose to believe the prompting of the Holy Spirit and the revelation she received having been filled with the Spirit. Mary was to be the mother of our Lord and what God had begun in her He would accomplish.  Great things, and certainly “miraculous” things, are hard to imagine, difficult to believe. As Mary poured out her story to cousin Elizabeth and her husband, the priest  Zechariah, there had to be great empathy for her knowing that at home in Nazareth there would be  Mary’s fiancé  as well as her family who would find Mary’s story/explanation unfathomable and shameful.Zechariah, however, being educated in scripture, was familiar with the hope expressed in Isaiah 7 and 9 that told of a Messiah being born to a virgin, the Redeemer who would save people from their sins. Perhaps he unrolled a papyrus and reassured Mary through the word of God. Who knows?

Confirmation would come in time through angels, visions and prophesy, but not nearly soon enough to bring peace and comfort to this young mother of God. “Those who choose to believe will not need proof. For those who don’t, there will never be proof enough.” This saying is as much true today about the reality of God and his love for His world as it was for those who would be aware of this “questionable” pregnancy of the virgin. Mary had to wonder, “why me?” Perhaps she was comforted by Elizabeth saying “you were chosen because of your ordinariness, not in spite of it. God has been doing that sort of thing for generations.”

In a culture where propriety was the rule, Mary returns to Nazareth and her beloved Joseph and before he can utter a word to her ( with her parents just a few steps away), she quietly tells Joseph that although she has never “known” a man, she is with child. Not just that, but the baby she is carrying is not from an earthly father but was placed in her womb by the Holy Spirit. Well, alright! Joseph must have thought that it was bad enough to betray him and nullify the promises of their families, but risking blasphemy by concocting such a story? Whatever possessed her to think that anyone would believe her? It would now just be a matter of time before her name would be a by-word in that small town. Years later as Jesus’ life and ministry became commonly known throughout the land, there would be those in Nazareth who heard the “story” and believed and claimed Jesus for themselves while others still turned a cold shoulder.

Things aren’t much different today, are they? In many ways this “story” of hope is hard to believe and own. Trust me in this, to a non-believer this “God story” is far-fetched. “Those who choose to believe will not need proof.”  Faith is the gateway. Proof comes through the exercise of faith. “For those who don’t believe, there will never be enough proof.”  We are instructed“Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Rom. 10:17) And yet we know today as in Mary’s day, “the message of the gospel is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor. 1:18) As we ponder gifts of goodwill this season, the season of our Savior’s birth, I’m sure He would be pleased if we took the opportunity to share His story with someone. That’s all He asks. The “believing” or “not believing” is not our immediate concern. Faith is God’s gift. Just tell the story. Think About It.

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