Most of us were raised to be cautious. Look before you leap. Measure twice, cut once. Better to be safe than sorry. As a result, we tend to regard unnecessary risks as foolish, and prudence as wise. Indeed, I’ve no doubt that practicing prudence and mitigating risk has saved me from a lot of headaches in my lifetime. At the same time, however, I am forced to admit that the best decisions I’ve made were blind leaps of faith. Marrying Michelle, having children, moving my family to a strange city, and becoming a deacon were all huge risks which a reasonable person in my position at the time might have avoided. I wasn’t ready for any of it.
As we prepare our hearts and homes for Christmas, we must come to terms with the fact that there is nothing prudent about the Christmas story. Mary, being young, poor and unmarried, was in no position to bear the Christ child. What was she thinking? And Joseph…well, a man of prudence at that time and place would have walked away from the whole deal. And this ridiculous notion of putting a woman who is nearly nine months pregnant on the back of a donkey and crossing the desert…why, you’re joking, right? Who in their right mind would do such a thing?
A leap of true faith would not be a leap at all, nor would it require any faith whatsoever, if we were guaranteed a soft landing. Perhaps that presents the burning question for our hearts to ponder as we prepare for Christmas: How much am I willing to risk in order to bring Christ into the world? My time? My comfort? My reputation? What and how much? For my own part, I’ll admit it’s easier to ask the questions than to answer them.
I’d like to introduce you to two “Marys” who continuously inspire me with their big leaps of faith. I haven’t been able to thank either of them in person because I don’t know who they are. The first Mary is an absolutely beautiful soul who periodically over the years has sent me notes of encouragement and cash donations for my work with the homeless and marginalized. She signs all her cards as “Mary” but is very careful about never including a return address or contact information. Without knowing whether her cards will actually reach me or what I’ll use the donation for, she just keeps sending them to me. Her notes of encouragement and kindness have a way of landing in my mailbox when I need them most. She takes a leap of faith and inspires me more than she will ever know.
The second Mary, well, I have a pretty good idea of who she is, but she, too chooses to remain anonymous. Every year toward the end of November, a bag shows up in my office filled with hand-knit hats for the homeless and a very generous envelope of cash for StreetLights Outreach. She, too, takes a leap of faith that her generosity will make a meaningful difference to people she will never meet. It is both an honor and a privilege to be entrusted as a steward of the faith shared by both of these Marys, who just keep bringing Christ into the world.
Christmas is a gift-giving celebration, but most of us give gifts just to people we know. I’m not sure that takes much faith on our part, certainly not a Mary and Joseph level of faith. So here’s the question again to walk with during the remainder of Advent: How much am I willing to risk in order to bring Christ into the world?
Journey well and pray always.