Hebrews 11: 1
"Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
2 Corinthians 5: 7
"For we walk by faith, not by sight.”
Luke 2: 8 - 10a
“In that region there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flocks by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid.’”
It is that time of year, for myself, when I start to really think about my faith. I wonder about what it means to be a person of faith in the world today, but also in my own life. As the scriptures allude too, faith can be a difficult thing to define. It is something that we might understand in our lives, but it is hard to put into words because it is based on those things that we cannot see but yet we know that it exists. This week we will, most likely, hear the story of Jesus birth as told in Luke’s gospel and when we think about it was come to see that this is a story of faith. Mary and Joseph both had faith in God in the midst of what was happening to them in their lives. They each trusted in God, even though there must have been many unknowns that they faced. So they travelled to where they needed to go because they had faith.
But there is another part to this story as well and it is the knowledge that the important part of this story unfolded in the midst of the dark of night. Joseph and Mary came to that stable at night. The shepherds were watching their flocks at night when the angels came to visit them. The visitors followed that star that shone at night. This story is one that is told in the midst of darkness. But the truth is that we have come to be wary of the darkness. Quite often we equate darkness with danger. We talk of dark times in our lives, and in the world, in the negative. We speak of light coming to a dark world. But I have been wondering if there is a gift that might just be found in the midst of darkness. I wonder if it is in those dark times when we truly find our faith. Edward Teller, the late Hungarian-American physicist, has stated about the concept of faith and darkness, “When you get to the end of all the light you know and it’s time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things shall happen: either you will be given something solid to stand on, or you will be taught how to fly.” So maybe our faith finds itself in the midst of the unknown. The scripture from the Letter to the Hebrews speaks to faith as the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of those things not seen. It might just be speaking of those things that exist in the darkness as those things not seen. Maybe our faith has something to do with us being willing to enter into the darkness rather than avoiding it.
If we understand that our faith is based in those things we can’t see, we can see that our faith exists not only in the midst of the good times of life, but also the dark times. What then are we called to do in faith? Elizabeth Gilbert, the American journalist and author of the book Eat Pray Love, speaks to this idea of what our faith calls us to do, in the following way, “Faith is walking face-first and full-speed into the dark. If we truly knew all the answers in advance as to the meaning of life and the nature of God and the destiny of our souls, our belief would not be a leap of faith and it would not be a courageous act of humanity; it would just be….a prudent insurance policy.” Our faith is not an insurance policy, it is a courageous act in a world that says faith doesn’t exist because it can’t be seen or measured. Yet we know that our faith exists. We feel our faith deep in our souls.
We, in faith, have been preparing for that which we cannot see, the coming of Love Incarnate into the world. We have been trusting in our faith in the midst of a dark time in our world knowing that our faith exists in the midst of the darkness, as well as the light. We trust in our God who is unseen and yet ever-present. We continue to hope in that which we cannot see. This coming week is based in the story that speaks deeply to us, as it unfolds in the darkness, that God is with us all, today and every day. That is truly our faith.
God of darkness and light, help us to remember that the story of your coming takes place at night, in the dark. Help us to know that our faith is not only lived out in the light, but also in the dark. Give us the courage to trust in your presence, your guidance, your love, in the midst of the dark places of our lives. Help us to feel you with us always as we enter into dark places knowing that we are not alone. We ask this in the name of Love Incarnate, your son, Jesus. Amen.