Lots of pastors will read the Christmas story in church this Sunday. Some of them will come up with pretty little placebos for our time of pandemics, lockdowns and government-imposed emergencies. But Christmas, above all, is a story of faith in God for something far larger than what we can see in front of us. This kind of seeing requires eyes of faith.
Perhaps you are like me and have heard the expression “faith in God” your whole life. But what does that actually mean? Does it mean that we believe God exists? So do the demons. Does it mean that we believe that Jesus came to the earth and died in our place, to pay a debt we could not pay, and in so doing restored our relationship with God (our Father) and gave us eternal life? Does it mean that Jesus’ death and resurrection restored all that humanity had before the Fall in the Garden of Eden? Or is Jesus just a nice idea that sells presents every year (even if they will be delivered late this year)?
Here’s an interesting Christmas story for our moment in time from the book of Matthew. It’s not the one you will hear this Sunday. But here it is, anyway:
- Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”
He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.
The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!” (Matthew 8:23-27 NIV)
The disciples in that fishing boat had a certain amount of faith, because they believed that if they could wake up Jesus, he could fix their problem. He did fix their problem, but not before he rebuked them for their lack of faith. But why?
There is a furious storm going on in the earth this Christmas. There will be a multitude of prayers offered in our churches this Sunday, asking Jesus to calm the storm going on in the earth right now. We’d like everything to be the way it was, before the storm started. Our lives may not have been perfect, but they were predictable. Our government seemed to function, even if we didn’t always like what it did. But the pandemic of fear has changed all that. Do you ever hear God asking, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”
Is it or is it not a valid question? Predictability is not something God cares much about. If you have foreknowledge (knowledge of the future) as God does, why would you need predictability?
Maybe we’re at the point in human history where God wants things to be different, but we want them to be the way they always were. What if God actually wants everything to be different? What if we are between acts in the play and He is rearranging the stage? What if God is not satisfied with our nebulous “faith in God,” but he wants men and women who follow Him closely enough to hear him express his hopes and dreams for the world and for humanity? What if our “faith in God” is actually obscuring what God is doing right now?
Maybe faith in God goes deeper than simply believing that He is (exists). Maybe faith in God means hearing his voice and listening for what He wants us to do. Does God actually speak to us? Is prayer a two-way conversation, or do we present our petitions and then rush out of His presence? Do we dare to stay in His presence, confident that Jesus’ death and resurrection those 33 years after his birth changed everything?
As the Apostle Peter (more eloquently) observed, time is not the same for God as it is for us. The Bible makes clear that we are all eternal, and also that we face very different eternities, based on our reaction to the plumb-line of Jesus Christ that was dropped in Nazareth some 2,000 years ago.
Maybe God is tired of being bought off by our check in the collection plate every Sunday. Maybe He is even now rearranging the furniture for the final act, and he wants those who are able to hear him to become part of the final act for humanity. Remember, no matter how far you go with God, there’s always more. We will never understand him, but he never asked for our understanding. He asks for our love. Merry Christmas.
Armageddon Story, Vol. 4, Earth’s Final Kingdom. Violet says, “Hi!” Does she know you?
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