When my kids were little, their favorite question was “Why?” Why is the sky blue? Why doesn’t the moon fall down? Why can’t we ride our dog Maxie like a pony? Why can’t I go to school with you?
Every Sunday, I facilitate a lectionary Bible study at my parish. It’s discussion- based, which is how I have always preferred to teach, but the rub of this method always is the necessity to be prepared for anything. And that includes, always, some really great questions to which I will never claim that I have the answers.
A couple of Sundays ago was no exception. I had agreed to teach a month-long Advent series for the entire adult education program, rather than just our regular small group, and we were on the fourth and final Sunday. Our texts included the Annunciation narrative from Luke. The Archangel Gabriel appears to Mary, and opens up to her the possibility that she will bear a child, even though she is a “virgin.” And there are some who doubt several aspects of this story.
And that’s okay. In fact, that’s probably why many of us are Episcopalians. We are not afraid to live into the questions. But, I wonder, can we also be unafraid to live into the possibilities?
I wonder if we completely misunderstand the stories we hear during the seasons of Advent and Christmas if we set our focus on them as telling us anything about the “how” of God. A far more interesting question to me is the one my kids favored so much growing up: “Why?” Why was the Son of God sent into the world, born as a tiny baby in a dusty corner of a gigantic empire? Why do the stories insist that the Son of God was born into an “irregular” family to a teenaged mother without connection or wealth or privilege? Why listen to these stories today?
One of the greatest mysteries in scripture seems to be that the God of Israel delights in those who would be overlooked: the younger child rather than the elder, the shepherd rather than the warrior, the repentant sinner rather than the perfect, the Samaritan who shouldn’t be expected to be compassionate rather than the leaders who should be compassionate but aren’t. Always, always, God encourages us to expand our notions of what is possible, to burst free of expectations based on what is probable, to show us instead the wonders of what can be.
Likewise, in this season of Advent and Christmas, the angle that captures my attention is not who Jesus WAS as much as who Jesus IS for us today. When we try to box Jesus into our scientifically perceived notions of natural law, we lose our grasp of Jesus altogether, much as you can’t hold water in your fist. Unto us is born a child who will be a savior for us right now as well as throughout the past.
This Son of God comes to be Emmanuel, “God With Us.” This Son of God comes to heal the lame and the sick and the outcast—and he continues to heal today, in the frozen, dry fields that lie waiting in the very center of our being. This Son of God comes to us as a humble little baby, whose cry from the manger cracks open our hearts and our spirits, opening us up to what is possible, what can be, through love and trust in both God and each other. He comes to us right now, and we so very much need him. Come, Lord Jesus.
Leslie Scoopmire is a retired teacher and postulant for the priesthood in the Diocese of Missouri. She attends Eden Theological Seminary in Webster Groves, MO. She is a member of and musician at the Church of the Holy Communion in University City, Missouri, in the Diocese of Missouri, and tweets daily prayers and news of note @HolyCommUCity. Her blog is Abiding in Hope.