Often when we come to the Christmas season and the story of Jesus’s arrival, we think of peace on earth and silent nights and eat a lot of chocolate while doing so.
But the Christmas story is a strange paradox. It’s an invitation to behold God’s power in the most unlikely places, using things we wouldn’t think to display His might, strength, and character.
So, how does God put His power on display?
Think of kids between the ages of 2 and 4. They are experts at asking questions, especially in sequence. Even when you don’t think there are any questions left, they come up with more.
What is that?
What does it do?
Why does it heat food?
So that we can have dinner.
Why do we have dinner?
And so on and so forth.
As parents, the opportunity before us is not just to give them an answer to what they’re asking but to unveil more about ourselves through the answers. Whether that’s our values, history, fears, or love for them, we share more about ourselves.
But what if we discouraged them from asking questions?
We’d never develop the relationship we have with them. Has there been a point in your spiritual journey where you’ve said, “Uh, God?” Questions are normal and can be multi-faceted.
The stigma is two-sided.
Break the stigma because anything that doesn’t grow dies.
We grow in this life by gaining knowledge, understanding it, and applying it to our lives. And when we don’t know the answers, when things are confusing, or when new information is given to us, we must ask questions.
In this place of new information, we find the character in scripture.
This is not normal. And if we’ve grown up hearing this story, especially around this time of year, we can become numb and apathetic to the reality of what’s happening. But, if we listened to these details in just a few verses as adults, we would have some concerns. And you know who else does? Mary.
This is important for us to unpack because we often go about our lives when we hear words from God, whether in a sermon, a song, a bible study, or our private devotions. Maybe we hear something from God outside our everyday context and it’s troubling or confusing. Just like Mary, we might have questions about what we’re hearing.
How does Gabriel respond to Mary? He says, “Fear not, Mary.”
Don’t be afraid. And this is such a powerful moment for Mary. And it’s also one we’re invited to when we’re troubled, concerned, or have questions, not to be afraid.
And the reason He says ‘fear not’ is so that He can continue with the message. He can’t reveal the rest of what will happen if Mary is paralyzed by fear. And it’s the same with us too.
How many of you heard the phrase growing up, “don’t ask questions, just do what you’re told.” Many parents say this when they don’t have the time or desire to explain what’s happening to their kids in more detail.
This is dangerous to say to a young mind because it destroys wonder.
And for some of us, we have this approach when it comes to our faith, not to ask questions, just accept what we’re presented with… no questions asked.
But that’s not what Mary does.
She asks for more information, more clarity. She’s not doubting. She’s questioning.
Faith invites mystery. And as unsettling as that may be, it’s also incredibly comforting because you can always ask questions to gain more insight when there's something you don't know.
Now imagine if Mary didn’t ask the follow-up question. Do you think her question would’ve vanished? Questions don’t disappear just because you don’t ask them. Instead, there’s a beautiful release when we verbalize our concerns.
How does Gabriel NOT respond to Mary?
He unveils the plan and reveals God’s power.
As Gabriel answers Mary’s question of how all of this will come about, he reveals God’s power.
Time and time again, we see encounters with God that are confusing, cause questions, or generate concerns. But, instead of running from these feelings, we see people drawing closer to God by not being afraid and embracing the unknown. When they do that, we see a god who answers by reminding us that He is with us and He is over the situation.
But here’s the thing we must grasp; it’s true for Mary, and it’s true for us. We only see the power if we ask the question. Mary will remain ignorant to the work of God and His plan for salvation through her until she says, “I don’t get it, explain it to me.”
The reality is that you won’t always get answers. But you always get an invitation. How does Mary end her encounter?
She decides in the direction of trust. Questions lead you to a destination. And the destination is one of two places: Cynicism or Trust.
Asking questions can either lead you to a place of skepticism, where you’re cautious of authority and leadership, or it brings you to a destination of mistrust and suspicion.
Questions can also lead you to a greater dependence on who has the answers because He reveals more of His power over the questions. He reveals His knowledge of you, the difficulty you're facing, and the insecurity you feel.
But it always leads you somewhere.
You determine the destination through this posture: I am the Lord's servant. And I chose to engage with you at the level of my questions because I understand you more through them. I trust you more. I see you more.
It's strange that instead of grand revelations of power and authority, God uses an unlikely method for revelation: questions.
We're invited not to be afraid of them, to bring our humanity to Him; through that, He gives us Himself.
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