As I write this today it is Christmas Eve. For some it a is a time of celebration of the Christian faith taken for granted as a reality. Others see it as a cute celebration of what amounts to a fairy tale. Still others are somewhere in between of whatever it means to engage with such a proposition; they remain skeptical.
There is a fine line between skepticism and cynicism in matters of faith. With the former there is an honest inquiry into what may be divine that can lead to a fuller collaboration for the parts that may become clear over time while there is some intellectual honesty that not all will be clear. Thomas Jefferson wrote, “Fix reason firmly in her seat, and call to her tribunal every fact, every opinion. Question with boldness even the existence of a God….he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blindfolded fear.” If the inquiry is honest and they come out on the other side as believers collaboration, not coercion, is in the process.
Where the later comes in, cynicism, there is not a matter of collaboration but one of demanding God make sense with little or no mystery. This approach taken to its conclusion is asking God to coerce into what is seen as a hypothetical truth and cuts free will off at the knees.
And on this case in point, even religious people are not immune. Zechariah was a priest at about the year 0 and he had his hangup when it was communicated to him that he and his wife were to conceive John the Baptist. His response was not a welcome one to an angel of the Lord in the house of the Lord speaking to him, a priest, a servant of the Lord.
Then Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” And the angel said to him in reply, “I am Gabriel, who stand before God. I was sent to speak to you and to announce to you this good news. But now you will be speechless and unable to talk until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled at their proper time.” (Luke 1:18-20)
How shall I know this? —- A very loaded challenge. Zechariah puts out the reasons in natural law that God’s miraculous power is doubtful to overcome. Second, Zechariah presumes that he is entitled to know that the initiator of this promise expected to put down a deposit of good faith. Appropriate for a business transaction in the world or a salesman pitching wares at his house. But it is not his house. It is God’s house and God’s economy of doing things and not man’s. If one looks at the behavior of skeptics, especially religious ones, that mistake is done often.
But now you will be speechless …will be fulfilled at their proper time—- God does not coerce us to reason things out but proposes us. God does force us to ponder. Sometimes we get a wake up call in tragedy, suffering or a well reasoned argument to lift up our minds and hearts to God that transcends our dominant five senses and our many more assumptions. In those moments or seasons we blink, we breath, we pace or look longingly at the top of a tree swayed by the wind. And then we harden our hearts and turn to shallow distractions. Or maybe we do not.
which will be fulfilled at their proper time—- But this attention getter would be fulfilled in two contexts that are worth knowing for the seeker of God. One is that Zechariah needed to conceive in his heart this child of promise before he had a marital embrace. But for the day he would hold his son it would be a matter of seeing him as a gift and not an entitlement. In fact, John means “Yahweh has shown favor”.
God will click things together in his timing and his way. We have something better than Zechariah in that we can choose to be silent and go slow. To inquire of God is to hear his voice in our hearts and often over a period of time. A sharp sense of his voice and his will for our lives is the exception and not the rule. To forget this is to look at the existence and even grace of God like a gift horse in the mouth and making a donkey of ones self.
Today as I post this message it is Christmas Eve. By all means, seek God with your mind. But remember God, in Jesus, seeks you always. Respond wisely.