In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
Luke 1:26-38 (ESV)
Week 2 of advent represents faith. And I don’t mean the faith that gets us through the day or gets us through trials. I mean real faith that God is real, all of His Word is true, and that He is still working and moving today.
There’s a myth in the church that faith means having zero evidence for something and believing it anyway. It implies that if you have the slightest bit of evidence for believing in God or what He says, it’s not really faith. This simply isn’t true.
When Mary became pregnant with Jesus, she didn’t simply believe it was the son of God. Joseph didn’t simply believe Mary hadn’t been unfaithful. That, in the absence of other factors, would have been foolish.
But an actual angel came to Mary and she STILL questioned whether what the angel was saying was true. I’m sure she also had plenty of questions that she didn’t ask, not the least of which being “Why me?” and “Why now?”
Even given some proof as blatantly obvious as an angel appearing before her, it still takes a lot of faith to believe what the angel says. “You’re a virgin, but you are about be pregnant. And it’ll be the Son of God, the Christ who has prophesied that Israel has been waiting for for 400 years. Oh, and you know your relative Elizabeth who was barren? She’s pregnant too.” Even in that moment, it took a ton of faith for her to respond the way she did.
It took even more faith for her to continue to believe it days or weeks later. It’s easy when an experience is over to question the authenticity of it. Was it a dream? Did the angel really say those words?
It’s certainly difficult for us to believe now, not having seen the angel, or Jesus’ resurrection in the flesh. Debates are held among Christians about which parts of the Bible are just a metaphor and whether anything in the Bible other than the words that Jesus said are worth paying attention to.
Many of us have experience God in an undeniable way, in some form or fashion, but feel able to easily to explain it away later in life, as an “emotional high” or a coincidence.
The truth is. even for those of us who are the most devout, it’s incredibly difficult to have faith that the divine can have an impact on the natural world.
But the good news is our faith doesn’t have to be blind. We can experience God, we can study his Word, we can master debate through apologetics or develop an understanding of how a study of science leads to a conclusion that some divine being created the universe. These things aren’t bad and don’t detract from our faith, provided we find a way to still believe the words of the Bible in the process. It’s good to have an experience or an argument or a bit of evidence to support our faith. It’s hard enough to keep faith even WITH those things, much less in the absence of them. Just something to think about.