There are days when I wish I lived back in biblical times. Things were so much better back then. So much… easier. You could count on angels and dreams to show you the way, to help you when you were stuck, to nudge you left or right whenever you came to one of life’s forks in the road.
Take for example the Christmas story. Mary encountered a glowing and flying being that could walk through solid objects and who told her that she was going to be the mother of God. And Joseph had a definitive dream that told him it was no problem that his betrothed was pregnant, that he really could trust her going forward and should still marry her.
I wish I could have angel visits like that. And dreams that gave me such great clarity. But my angels and my dreams aren’t exactly like that. Are yours?
The Christmas story that is told… or depicted in art and in movies… tends to make what Mary and Joseph encountered seem like that. As though the angel visit and the dream were conclusive, clear-cut, definitive.
Be honest – if a glowing, flying and walk-through-walls semi-transparent being told you to do something… wouldn’t you do it? I think I would.
I sometimes wonder if we do the entire Christmas story, and Mary and Joseph in particular, a disservice by telling and showing the story the way we do. Use your imagination with me for a moment. What if the Angel Gabriel who announced that she was pregnant with the Messiah, the son of God, looked just like your next door neighbor? Or the guy who works at Dunkin’ Donuts? Or the woman who greets you at the front desk at your doctor’s office? And what if Joseph’s dream was a lot like the dreams that you and I have? Cloudy, vague… and confusing?
I sometimes wonder if we do the entire Christmas story, and Mary and Joseph in particular, a disservice by not acknowledging the great leaps of faith that they made in order to participate in God’s divine plan of revelation? Use your imagination with me for a moment. What if Mary and Joseph had doubts and fears? What if they faced pressure from their family and friends? What if they would have rather spent their time doing something else… anything else? What if they preferred to fly a little below the radar? In other words, what if they were more like you and I?
That’s how I have come to see the Gospel stories that together comprise our understanding of Christmas. As pure leaps of faith. As the willingness of two otherwise ordinary people who said yes to entering into the epic story of God becoming one of us.
Stories of faith tend to be like that: simple stories of otherwise ordinary people. Christmas happens when we… along with our doubts, the pressures we face, the choices we have to make, and the fears we must encounter… decide to make a leap of faith… and leap… towards God.
Christmas is the ultimate leap of faith story.
All of us have a story too. It’s the story of our own lives. The story of who we are, who we choose to be, what we choose to believe in, and manner in which we reflect our beliefs in our lives. We only need to decide whether our final story… the one told at the very end… will include such a leap of faith.
Advent reminds us that nobody ever really soars…
… unless they first are willing to leap.