Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Faith Debate
by Brenda Black

There are two kinds of people in this world. Those who live by faith and those who live by sight. Before placing judgement, remember Christ contended that it is more blessed to believe without seeing, but to be more blessed means the “show me” crowd must be blessed as well. Let's face it – both types are necessary and provide balance. Mary and Elizabeth from the Gospel of Luke are perfect examples of blind-believing faith and sight-seeing faith that demonstrate God's joy for each.

Meet Mary – a humble, young teen who knew very little about normal pregnancy and even less about the supernatural kind. It strikes me that Mary didn't deny what the angel Gabriel told her, she just wanted to know “How will this be since I am a virgin?” Young, humble, and inquisitive. Sounds like a teen to me. And when she received ample explanation - radically unusual, absolutely miraculous, completely foreign to her understanding – she accepted it without further question.

Enter Elizabeth - an older, wiser woman already in the midst of one miracle. She's an elderly, barren woman six months pregnant. “When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: 'Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!” (Luke 1:41-42) Then she asks her own nagging question - “But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (vs. 43)

Elizabeth's tangible encounter confirms what Mary already has accepted in innocent faith. Elizabeth is blessed because of her in-sight. Mary is blessed because of her fore-sight. “As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.” (vs 44-45)

Two perspectives intertwined to tell the greatest story in history. One from the outside, looking in and seeing God's hand, feeling his Spirit and being blessed. The other in the midst of the miracle, trusting God's purpose, expecting his Spirit and being blessed. The best part of the whole picture is that they bless one another!

For the practical who need proof, there is plenty of it in this universe. And we are blessed that they continue to dig for the evidence and render documentation that points to divine creation and intervention. For the dreamers and ponderers who couldn't care less if there is an ounce of tangible proof, we are blessed for their joyous abandonment to follow their hearts instead of their heads and demonstrate incredible living faith.

There is probably a little bit of both in each of us if we look closely. At times we need to see the data for ourselves. Other days, we simply accept it with grace.

It is one day past Christmas. The pageants and carols and packages and symbols will soon fade into memories or disappear into storage boxes. What will you do with the evidence of Christ's miraculous birth once again remembered this December? How will you look ahead with your heart and anticipate his presence in the new year? May I suggest that you go forward with your eyes wide open, watching for confirmation of Immanuel. Proceed with your eyes shut, trusting in a God who is with us even when we cannot see his face or touch his hand. We are blessed because whether we see or simply believe, we can feel his Spirit and leap for joy that we have the gift of faith!

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