I love Christmas!
I love the trees, the lights, the presents. I love the all the variety of nativity scenes, carols about the coming of Christ, and the profound attempts to discover joy this time of year.
I need you to know that before you read what comes next.
But (you knew it was coming didn’t you?) I’m afraid we’re missing quite a bit of what’s going on this time of year in the original Christmas Story.
One of the things our modern version of the “Christmas Story” misses out on is the uncertainty of the whole enterprise.
I fear we often think of the cast of characters as robots who simply played along with God’s crazy shenanigans, never once stopping to question what God might be up to. The truth is far greater! At every turn each character seems puzzled by God’s promises and the first thought that comes to their minds is, “How will this be?”
For Zechariah and Elizabeth – How will an aged couple be able to have a baby? For Joseph – How will things workout when Mary is pregnant before they consummated their marriage? For Mary – How will she become pregnant since she isn’t intimately involved with anyone?
What we take for granted in the Jesus story is more often than not met with skepticism and doubt by those involved in the Jesus Story.
Here’s what else I know about the Christmas Story:
God’s answers rarely satisfy our questions.
Zechariah asks, How? God says, Go home; wait and see.
Joseph asks, How? God says, Take Mary home with you to be your wife and wait and see.
Finally, Mary, the soon-to-be mother of the Son of God asks, How? And for the first time God answers in detail:
“The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”
The story doesn’t say this, but I imagine Mary standing (or sitting there) slack jawed struggling to get out her profound appreciation for God’s explanation with the single word response, “Oh.”
Sometimes when we ask God how? God’s answers leave us going, huh?
Instead of the robotic and automatic faith some of us have imagined, the uncertainty of the Christmas Story actually invites us, in our own day, to ask God, How?
Some of you need to know that how is not a dirty word. It is not a word, or question, that God despises. In fact, asking How? is often our first step toward, not away from God.
It’s the question of God’s people in every place and at every time – when God reaches out with such incredible grace we respond, How?
I’m guessing there’s something in your life that is inviting you to turn to God and ask how – even (or especially) in this season when all is supposed to be well.
Mary does this well. She asks, how, so well.
Could it be that your life is in need of a little wonder? Of practicing that one little word? Could it be that God is inviting you to sit with God’s word – to wonder at that word in hopes that your heart will not wander away from the world God longs for you to be a part of?
During this season, may you come to know the God that invites you to ask, How? May you wonder at all of God’s promises. And may you, like Mary, when it is all said and done say these words:
“I am the Lord’s servant. May your word to me be fulfilled.”