Doubt or Belief?

Luke 1:11-21 is the story of the priest, Zechariah, and his visit from the angel Gabriel. The angel comes to give Zechariah the good news that his wife, Elizabeth, will bear a son, whom they should name John.

Because of his and Elizabeth’s advanced ages, Zechariah doubts the news that Gabriel has given him. Gabriel replies to Zechariah, “I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at the proper time.” 

Only a few verses later (verses 26-38), we read that God sends the angel Gabriel to Nazareth to give news to a virgin named Mary. Gabriel tells her that she is highly favored by God and that she will give birth to a son whom she should name Jesus. Gabriel says that this child will be great and will be the “Son of the Most High”. To Mary’s question, “How will this be since I am a virgin?” The angel explains, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. The holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”

In great contrast to Zechariah’s doubtful response, Mary replies, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.”

I wonder what explains the difference between Zechariah’s doubt and Mary’s belief.

There was (undoubtedly) a considerable difference in age between Zechariah and Mary. He was (according to scripture) “an old man”, (if not by today’s standards).  By contrast, Mary was likely in her early teens (maybe 13-15).

It occurs to me that Mary’s response would have been that of a very young girl who had not yet learned to be skeptical or jaded. Once Gabriel satisfies her curiosity, about how this can all happen, she is quick to say, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.” Mary is all in! This in spite of all of the uncertainties of what is to come.

 

Mary’s response to the angel, Gabriel’s words, sets her life in motion and things will never be the same for her again. She has an enthusiasm for life. Talk about a wild and precious life! Giving the child in me a wide sky? Dancing as if no one is watching! How about loving as if I have never been hurt?

Mary’s response to God’s call on her life is in direct contrast to Zechariah’s response to the angel Gabriel. Zechariah has been around the block a few times. He has suffered through the pain and disappointment that are part of the human condition. He has a hard time believing the truth that the angel Gabriel brings him. He needs to see it before he can believe it. Zechariah is a bit jaded.

The question I ask myself now is this: Am I most like Zechariah, or am I more often like Mary? I want to be like Mary, but I know in my heart that at times I am like Zechariah. I lose hope when I feel overwhelmed by the pain and sadness I see around me. It is hard to get my bearings when I do not keep my heart and soul moored in that place of stillness where I have a constant awareness of God’s grace and goodness in my life.

During this season of preparation, we might all strive to be less like Zechariah and his skepticism. We might try to be more like Mary who said:

“My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.

Let us answer the call God places on each of our lives this Advent season. This is the perfect time to share with others the Hope, Love, Joy and Peace; God gave us when he sent a Savior, a baby born in a manger, who is Christ the Lord!      

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