Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas: Surprised By God

Christmas has snuck up on me this year. Oh, I could see it coming and I have been listening to all the Christmas music in the stores but without any snow on the ground it still feels like it is weeks away. It is time to look again at the scriptures surrounding the event in preparation for the celebration on Christmas day. So setting aside our current look at 1 Corinthians I want us to consider our reaction to Christmas.

Every year I like to look at the reaction of Mary and Zechariah to compare how they responded to the surprise announcement of the angel. Zechariah was an old priest; Mary was likely a 14 year old girl. Zechariah was carrying out his priestly duties, making offering to the Lord; Mary was in her bedroom. Zechariah had been praying for a child; Mary was not, she had only recently become engaged. Which of these two  should have been expecting something extraordinary from God?

Now consider how they responded to the angel's announcement of the news. Each had a question. They sound similar but were very much different. Zechariah's question:

“How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” (Luke 1:18)

Mary's question:

“How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34)

Zechariah's question was one of disbelief followed by a demand of proof. Mary's was one of amazement since she was a virgin. The angel responded to Zechariah with correction but to Mary he responded with explanation. Zechariah left humiliated because of his disbelief whereas Mary has always been honoured because of her humble response:

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:38)

Mary was only a 14 year old girl but she knew better than Zechariah, the old priest, how to respond to God. But don't be too hard on Zechariah because that is how most of us react to God even when he answers our prayers.

Seriously, how many people would be inspired by our reaction to God when he surprises us? And should it be a surprise when God responds to our prayers? Zechariah should not have been surprised that God would do this thing even in his old age. Did he even know the God he served, the God of Abraham who had a child in his old age? Not just any child but the child that was the seed to the promise God had given to him. We have a God who is amazing, who often goes beyond what we ask for. Zechariah ask for a child and God gave to him the prophet who would prepare the way for the Messiah.

We have to stop being surprised when God responds to our prayers. What is the sense of praying if we aren't going to believe in the first place? I do not want to be considered like Zechariah, a man who should have known better than to doubt God. I would hope that my testimony and witness is as strong as Mary's and people would consider me a man who trusts God. There was nothing special about Mary, except for that one important fact that when God spoke she chose to believe and submit herself to his will. May that be said of all of us.

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