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A Christmas reflection by General Manager Church and Community Engagement Tim McMenamin.
Faith is a many blessed thing to understand and define. It is even more challenging to live out, particularly when you place your faith (trust) in the creator of the universe and all that he has said and done.
The fact is we are all people of faith! Yep you are! You get in a plane, you trust the pilot knows something about taking off and landing, you trust that he knows where he is going and you hope to heaven he can get you there once you leave the terminal. Nice name for the place you start a journey!
You also put your faith in the doctor when you check in with a lump, a test or a check-up. Since turning 50, I understand what this code word for an operation I had heard from senior citizens was: A “procedure”. I tell you I put faith in the guy who had the knife in his hand, whose name I didn’t know, and qualifications I have never seen, to take large amounts of flesh out of my body and watch me bleed in his office. I tell you faith (trust in God, a person or a process) is the way you live every day. Throw God in the equation and you multiply complexity expediently.
There was a young lady in Nazareth who had a conversation with a celestial being named Gabriel, who announced to her that she would conceive of a child who would be a King over all creation. Can you imagine that being said to you?
Just to complicate the deal, Mary would have to carry the child to full term and explain to her husband and family she had no help from a man.
Mary, do you trust GOD to do this? Slight complication in this, Joseph (her husband to be), in their culture, could have Mary stoned for her crime of infidelity. Instead, Joseph chose to quietly divorce her, but after God showed up in his dream, he decided to marry her.
Joseph, do you trust God? The shame and humiliation factor in bearing this is unbelievable in the ancient near-eastern cultures. Joseph then has to take heavily pregnant Mary to his place of birth for the census of Caesar who is looking for a tax benefit from the empire.
It was a 90 kilometre walk for Joseph and Mary. I know you want the little donkey to do the hard work and carry Mary, but the fact is they couldn’t afford one as only the rich had them. On arrival the couple had to lodge with family. The word ‘inn’ means ‘house’, probably in the lowset part of a three tier structure where animals eat. So the food trough where the new King lay his head is an accurate description of the manger scene.
Question to Jesus, Mary and Joseph, do you trust God?
Not long after the shepherds and cattle had done the singing and lowing, the tetrarch (or governor of the municipality of Israel) ordered all babies under two years old to be slain. In other words Herod was put off by a King being announced by the Jews so he took action and wiped out the male children (probably about 400 children over night). The new family has to leg it to Egypt where the Jews have been slaves for 400 years (in another part of the story we won’t get into now).
How are your levels of trust now guys? Feeling affirmed and loved? Feeling like utopia has broken out? Feeling like God is all over this journey with great blessing?
Christmas, if it is anything in the biblical sense, is a story of trust in God with an all in approach to trusting the calling of this mysterious creator and being faithful with it and the tasks being called for by Him.
God called Mary to bear a King. God called Joseph to protect and be husband Mary and a father Jesus. God called Jesus to be the Messiah. Everything around them said otherwise, yet they trusted God with all their being and they delivered. Yes it’s complex, difficult and ambiguous. It is also filled with relational fidelity and huge layers of faith. The outcome of this faith is called the Kingdom of God where all who trust Christ enjoy the privilege of his love and grace. Faith is nothing short of throwing your lot in with Christ and walking the next step of your calling in every context. We are Churches of Christ and as part of the way we do life we ‘come with faith’.
Everyone lives with faith. Can I ask you to consider placing at the centre of your Christmas and maybe in the centre of your life be the risen King, Jesus Christ.
Life may not get any less difficult but it will have a massive foundation to stand on. Living with faith in Christ is a many blessed thing for sure, I couldn’t conceive of a life without him. I trust this Christmas will be filled with wonder and awe at the real story of how Christ came into the world and the wonder of you being here too.
We all live with faith, I believe it’s ‘in who’ that matters.
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