"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." - Hebrews 11:1
Faith, not seeing, is believing. Trusting, not knowing, is believing.
When I think of faith, trust, in this way and especially around this time of year, I think greatly upon Mary and especially Joseph.
Can you imagine what it might have been like to be Mary? So vulnerable and young and unmarried and now pregnant?
I wonder how it felt to be told by an angel that your whole life was about to be turned upside down. Most teenage girls I know would have completely short circuited. But not Mary. She humbly moved forward in faith; trusting. I can honestly say that I know as a teenager, I would not have been able to have done what Mary did, though I imagine there would have been a lot of weight placed in the words of the angel. But, can you imagine telling your parents you're pregnant and that no, you really didn't do anything with Joseph? Seriously, how many of us would buy that from our daughters if that's the line they gave us? But she trudged forward faithfully.
And then there is Joseph. In love with a woman who becomes pregnant...but not by him. He faces similar social agony as Mary does. He REALLY, REALLY has to trust her and God. But he doesn't at first. Out of his love for her, he plans on dismissing her quietly from their engagement. Read on:
"But just when he had resolved to do this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, 'Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, for the child conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.'" - Matthew 1:20
Can you just imagine being this young guy in love with a pregnant woman and then being told by an angel that she was impregnated by the Holy Spirit? If I had been Joseph, I probably would have completely lost my mind. It's so far out in left field that it's almost inconceivable (funny choice of words) to fathom.
This time of year is a bit like that for many people, even believers. We come to this point where we start to doubt the things that we believe in and question our sanity. We sometimes wonder if we've completely lost it. I can remember being a child and having that terrible aching feeling in my stomach when I found out that Santa wasn't really Santa. It was a loss of innocence.
Christmas means so very much more to me now though. Once I was able to put the idea of Santa aside, I was truly able to embrace the idea of Jesus. I knew of the real Christmas story, but it wasn't as fun, commercial or exciting to a child as Santa was. But when I was able to stop believing in Santa and really start believing in Jesus, the real magic came alive. Though I stopped believing that I needed to leave the cookies and carrots out on Christmas Eve, the lessons I learned from the big guy in the suit have helped me to really believe in the baby in the manger. It's all so interconnected. Learning to believe in something, even Santa, helps us understand what it means to believe in something we do not see. Santa is a much easier concept for children. However, that lesson in believing is never lost...not really.
As a mother, Christmas is completely different for me now in many ways, but one stands out today. Hambone is 2 1/2 and right now he is starting to see Christmas come alive. I see the magic in his eyes, the awe in his words, the joy in his singing. He believes in Santa, believes in magic, spirit, Christmas. He knows this is Jesus's birthday and that's what everyone is celebrating...even Santa. The really great thing is that I get to watch him filled with all of this magic at the same time as looking forward to watching him some day filled with the awe, joy, spirit and magic of the real star of the show...Jesus.
This makes me think of the movie the Polar Express. Hambone is in love with this movie mainly because of the train but also because of Santa. I'm in love with this movie for many reasons, but one is I can feel the love of Jesus inside of it. I can see Jesus throughout it. Without my faith, I couldn't believe the things I do. Believing makes faith even more amazing. So whether the real 'big guy' wears a red suit or not, doesn't matter. I know that I believe in something much bigger than I am that brings hope and love and joy all over the world and those things don't come in wrapped packages...but they come wrapped in believing.
Merry Christmas...all you have to do is believe!