By Archbishop Geoff Smith
The events leading up to and surrounding the birth of Jesus have many aspects and one of the most powerful is trust in God. When Mary and Joseph received the news of the coming birth of Jesus both were initially and understandably shocked and puzzled. In time, however, both Mary and Joseph responded by trusting God for their future and for the child who would be Jesus. What initially seemed crazy and impossible was embraced by these two people who trusted God for a future they could not imagine.
The importance of trusting God did not begin with the Christmas story. Trust in God was called for throughout the Old Testament and many examples of great trust are given in those texts. For instance, Psalm 40 verse 4 says ‘happy are those who make the Lord their trust, who do not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after false gods’. Or Proverbs 3.5-6- ‘trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths’. To trust God is to have confidence in God, to find hope in God, to rely on God. Mary and Joseph had confidence in the promise of God given to them concerning the baby Mary was to have because they had confidence in the character of God who made the promise.
One of the features of our society at the moment is a decline in religious belief and so the idea of trusting God is also fading away. Significantly, in a time of decline in faith there is a substantial increase in anxiety. Our community is becoming more anxious and while the causes of that increased anxiety are complex the situation provides both an opportunity and challenge for Christians.
We understand that God is trustworthy, that God loves us, is with us and can be trusted for the present and the future. Hopefully, this will be our actual experience, an experience we can share and offer to a community that is badly in need of good news that God can be trusted.
The challenge is for us, in the context of our anxious community, to actually trust God ourselves. It’s very easy to believe in God, to acknowledge a set of assumptions, be very knowledgeable about the Bible and the facts of Christianity, but not trust God for our present and future. To believe in God rather than believing God. That is, not to have confidence that God has our future and the future of the world in hand. Not to rely on the grace of God in Christ for our salvation. Not to rely on God for our very life and everyday existence.
Trusting God does not mean we sit passively and let things happen around us. There is a need for us to engage with our community and participate as co-workers with God in making our community and world a better place – more reflective of that line in the Lord’s Prayer – ‘your will be done on earth as it is in heaven’, but we do that trusting God and knowing God’s peace rather than driven by anxiety for the future.
There is no doubt that the situation Mary and Joseph were in as they contemplated the birth of Jesus and his future could easily have led to high anxiety and a refusal to participate with God in God’s plans. But instead they did trust. They put their lives and the future of their child in the hands of God and sought to obey in trust.
It would be a great gift to our community if we could grow in our capacity to trust God and it would, with no doubt at all, lead us to a greater peace. What a gift that would be!
As we celebrate Christmas and all that is involved in that feast, may we remember the trustworthiness of God, and decide with God’s help and strength to trust God more ourselves and offer the gift of trust in God as a worthwhile option to others.