There is a big difference between asking ‘how can this be?’ and ‘how will this be?’. In the Christmas story recounted by Luke he describes the angel Gabriel’s visit to Elizabeth’s husband Zachariah, and to Mary, a young girl engaged to be married to a man named Joseph. The heavenly messenger brought both Zachariah and Mary news that they were to be gifted with baby boys. Elizabeth, an elderly lady who had been hoping for a child for many years, was to have a boy whose name would be John, and Mary, a teenage girl and a virgin, would give birth to a boy, Jesus. Both by miraculous conception.
Zachariah was a seasoned church leader and deeply committed to his faith but even though he and his wife had prayed for years for child, now in their old age they had given up all hope. His reaction to the news was full of doubt and effectively he said, ‘Come on, how can this be? My wife is an old lady!’
Mary, on the other hand, was young. A young lady, young in the faith, only a teenager – maybe just 13 years old – but full of expectant faith. Her response to the heavenly messenger was one of enquiring faith, ‘How will this be? – please explain the process of how this will be?’
As we approach Christmas many of our staff and volunteers have been people of faith for many years. My prayer for you is to not lose the wonder of the Christmas story and the excitement of what God wants to do in the lives of families and children. Zachariah and Elisabeth had been nursing their own disappointment and hurt for many years. But God visited them with transforming good news. Their lives would never be the same.
Mary must have been quite terrified by the angel’s visit, as they often came surrounded by bright light. She and Joseph her fiancé must have been shocked by the news and worried about the potential stigma surrounding it; but equally ecstatic that their lives would never be the same again. They would be instruments in God’s plan. The birth of both boys would have a profound impact on society.
Safe Families for Children is proud to be a Christian charity, with the majority of our volunteers deeply committed to their faith and flowing out from that faith a desire to be engaged in the transformation of communities. How can this be? Let’s respond like Mary! ‘Here I am – I volunteer to be used for a greater purpose and the glory of God!’
by Keith Danby – CEO for Safe Families for Children