Faith. What exactly is faith? What does it look like and feel like to have faith? The Christmas story is one of faith. God is entering into creation, and to do so requires some trust.
Luke 1:26-38 (CSB)
26 In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man named Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And the angel came to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was deeply troubled by this statement, wondering what kind of greeting this could be. 30 Then the angel told her: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 Now listen: You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and his kingdom will have no end.” 34 Mary asked the angel, “How can this be, since I have not had sexual relations with a man?” 35 The angel replied to her: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 And consider your relative Elizabeth—even she has conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called childless. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.”38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” said Mary. “May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel left her.
Matthew 1:18-25 (CSB)
18 The birth of Jesus Christ came about this way: After his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, it was discovered before they came together that she was pregnant from the Holy Spirit. 19 So her husband Joseph, being a righteous man, and not wanting to disgrace her publicly, decided to divorce her secretly.20 But after he had considered these things, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife, because what has been conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”22 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
23 See, the virgin will become pregnant
and give birth to a son,
and they will name him Immanuel,
which is translated “God is with us.”
24 When Joseph woke up, he did as the Lord’s angel had commanded him. He married her 25 but did not have sexual relations with her until she gave birth to a son.?”? And he named him Jesus.
Luke 2:1-7 (CSB)
2 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole empire should be registered. 2 This first registration took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So everyone went to be registered, each to his own town.4 Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family line of David, 5 to be registered along with Mary, who was engaged to him and was pregnant. 6 While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. 7 Then she gave birth to her firstborn son, and she wrapped him tightly in cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.
Being Mary, being Joseph…..We are all familiar with the Christmas narrative. So much of our images that surround Christmas are wrapped up in Mary and Joseph. Songs are sung about them. It seems worth our time to pause and picture ourselves in their shoes. To be Mary and Joseph required a great deal of faith.
We start with Mary. Sure, she was startled by her angelic visitor. It is easy to just brush past this. Seriously…….an angel came to her to give her a message from God. I can not even imagine what my response would be. Mary is troubled but asks questions (as opposed to running away screaming). She does not argue with Gabriel, but can not understand her ability to fulfill the mission. Gabriel gives her an answer and she accepts it. “May it be done according to your word”
Enter Joseph. Joseph deals very fairly and compassionately with Mary. He does not seem to desire vindication or want to punish her when he finds out she has betrayed him by being unfaithful and is pregnant. He behaves very honorably. Then, he gets his angelic visit. He obeys the command that he was given.
Joseph and Mary do more than answer the call. They set about to do the things required in order to fulfill their undertaking. Hebrews chapter 11 is the great list of the faithful. The writer summarizes the faith of those that came before. As I read this chapter I was struck, not by the fervency of their insistence on belief. I was struck by the fact that they acted on their belief. We often mistake belief. We think that if we believe something, it is true. Or, we think that an intellectual assent to an idea is enough. Scripture does not let us off that easy. Faith is a belief that causes you to act as if what you believe is really true. So, when God says something, and we believe it, we must then walk as if it is true.
Hebrews 11:1 (CSB)
Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.
Bible Exposition Commentary – Be Confident (Hebrews) describes it this way.
“This is not a definition of faith but a description of what faith does and how it works. True Bible faith is not blind optimism or a manufactured “hope-so” feeling. Neither is it an intellectual assent to a doctrine. It is certainly not believing in spite of evidence! That would be superstition.
True Bible faith is confident obedience to God’s Word in spite of circumstances and consequences.Read that last sentence again and let it soak into your mind and heart.
This faith operates quite simply. God speaks and we hear His Word. We trust His Word and act on it no matter what the circumstances are or what the consequences may be. The circumstances may be impossible, and the consequences frightening and unknown; but we obey God’s Word just the same and believe Him to do what is right and what is best.”
We are familiar with Abraham. “Abraham believed the Lord, and it was credited to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6 CSB). Romans 4:5b (CSB) tells us “his faith is credited for righteousness.” Mary and Joseph believed God. They married. They stayed apart sexually. They journeyed to Bethlehem and gave birth to the Messiah. Theirs is a journey of faith. They, like Abraham, behaved like they believed the message given to them from God.
What is our faith journey? The challenge for us is the same as it was in ancient Israel. We all choose daily our walk of faith. We choose to believe the things God says, and respond in trust. We trust God despite how we feel, what we see, our circumstances, and any consequences. We trust that God is who He says He is. We trust that He loves us. We trust that He has made a way for us to be saved and to draw near. We trust that He is able to bring about all that He has spoken and promised. We trust He is on our side. We trust in His power. We trust His plan. We trust in eternal life. We trust that He is working things that are not seen by us, but real just the same. We trust in His goodness. We trust that He can be trusted.
This Christmas season, I want to encourage you to pause and consider your faith. We are on a journey. We are not going to Bethlehem, but we are on our own path. God is with us and is leading us to a life in Him and to live out His character through the presence of the Holy Spirit. Let us pause and enjoy the season. We know we have a hope. We have a living faith and are trusting in God. Christ has come……to us.