Welcoming Child-Like Faith
One of my favorite things to do at Christmas time is read children's stories.
A dear librarian I had the pleasure of working with once told me a week did not go by throughout the entire school year when a child did not check out a Christmas-themed book, and I can see why.
I want that more than 25 days a year, too.
But, you know, I think there is something else - something deeper - which draws a child to these books, no matter how secular the Christmas stories may be.
When we open the book and flip through the pages of a gingerbread chase or reindeer dancing gracefully upon the roof or a sleigh of presents balancing ever so shakily on the tip top of Mount Crumpit, something bright is ignited within us.
This something is wonder!
By definition, wonder is a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable.
Inexplicable. Unable to be explained. Let's keep this in our back pocket today. We'll be coming back to this.
Believing the Inexplicable
While we're on the train of definitions, here's another one we need today. Believe, the verb form, means to accept something as true.
The depth of our Christmas - the extent to which we experience hope, joy, peace and love -
the kind the world cannot provide - the kind that grabs our hearts and anchors us in the midst of the busyness or panic or sorrow which can so often characterize this season -
is held in this one word.
Do we believe?
It's easy to believe what we see. But what about what we cannot see?
Another word for believe is trust. To trust in what we cannot see seems scary and daunting and quite frankly, overwhelming.
Trusting what we cannot see is not natural. Said another way, it doesn't come effortlessly. It doesn't come easy. It's an active, intentional, persistent, resolved choice to have faith and trust the character of God above what we see with our own eyes.
For, if seeing was believing, then wind would not be real. After all, we can't see it.
But, because we can see the impact of the wind, we can believe it is, indeed, real.
I think faith in Jesus, for me, is a lot like the wind. Growing up in Amarillo, it was common to see big hair. I've heard it explained as "the bigger the hair, the closer to Jesus." But really, it's just a by-product of a lovely thing we call West Texas wind.
You may not see the wind itself but you feel it and you see the impact of it.
Winters in West Texas would rival those in the northeast simply because it doesn't just snow out in the High Plains. It snows sideways! The wind sweeps toward you with bone-chilling strength. Drive down The 40 and you'll see what I mean. Even without the snow, the trees (the few we have) all have a lean to 'em.
Although we don't yet see Jesus face-to-face, we feel His presence and we see the impact of His life and death in every moment hereafter. Are we looking? Do we believe?
A Time of Miracle Births
Before the birth of Jesus, another birth was foretold. This birth, too, was anchored in belief in the improbable, inexplicable, and unexpected.
It was a birth surrounded with wonder.
Elizabeth was married to a priest named Zechariah. They were older and had no children.
During that time, it was believed your problems were a result of some form of sin in your life. Yet, we know for this couple, that was not the case.
...they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child... - Luke 1:6-7
We'll see God had a plan.
One day, Zechariah is in the temple and an angel says to him,
"Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord...And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God...to make ready for the Lord a people prepared." - Luke 1:13-17
Zechariah, looking at the reality of his circumstances, responds by asking, "How? I am an old man and my wife...
Well this is too good. You have to read Luke's account yourself -
And Zechariah said to the angel, "How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years." - Luke 1:18
I love how Zechariah knew not to use the word "old" to describe his wife. Instead, he says, "advanced in years."
All joking aside, the angel, Gabriel, could not condone Zech's unbelief. So, he made him mute...
"...because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time." - Luke 1:20
As we continue reading, we see Elizabeth gave birth to a son as Gabriel had foretold. When asked what his name would be, Zechariah's voice returned as he named the child John.
John's life had immense purpose, as Gabriel shared - preparing the children of Israel for the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ.
As we prepare our homes and schedules and bank accounts for Christmas this year, may we also prepare our hearts to believe.
May we not apathetically disregard the birth of the Son of God in human form as improbable and therefore meaningless but choose to lean into the wonder and remember our God is the God of miracles. By nature, a miracle cannot be explained by natural or scientific laws.
If we only trust what we see, we will miss the beauty of not only Christmas but the life Jesus came to give us.
This time of remembrance when Jesus came to us is meant to be a time of refreshment for our souls. It is a time of enrichment in hope, joy, peace and love as we draw near to God and remember, make room in our hearts, and welcome the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ.
May we remember this gift of eternal life has been freely given to us, all we have to do is believe. May this belief open our mouths and give sound to our voices to tell others of what God has done for us, what the gift of Christmas - the miracle of Christmas - means for us and for them.
I think deep down - deep, deep down - there's a longing for home within all of us.
We long to believe in something miraculous and beautiful and true.
We long for hope.
This week, as we prepare for Christmas, let's embrace this child-like faith and anticipation and believe in something - Someone - greater.
May we find strength in scripture and joy in embracing a child-like faith. May we be filled with joy in celebrating this gift of Christmas all year long and peace in our yoke to believe. May we rest in God's faithfulness to send His Son as the lamb, the perfect and spotless sacrifice, for us.
The good life, well it starts with a good day. Then another. Then another. Let's choose to live #TheGoodDay one day at a time.
Also, I'd love to have you join me and 23 other talented authors this year in a special Advent devotional (Advent is a fancy word for prepare).
We'll be spending each day leading up to Christmas starting on December 1st reading a chapter of Luke and preparing our hearts for the birth of Jesus as we remember His life that He lived as a man so that we could be reconciled and made right with God.
Download your FREE copy of the Advent Devotional here - Beholding Advent: Reflections to Draw Closer to Christ as He Comes Closer to Us
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