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Choose Faith at Christmastime

Doubt and Disbelief on the First Christmas night

For a long time, I was taught that doubt was, well, wrong. It was sinful. And I guess it can be at times.

However, I wonder if doubt and disbelief in a good God forms part of the Christmas story more often than we often recognize.

Mary was a teenage girl who likely suffered great ridicule and ostracization as a result of her out-of-wedlock pregnancy. Joseph was a carpenter who had his world turned upside-down by this same baby—the one who the angel said will be called ‘Immanuel’ or ‘God with us.’

But at every turn, the angels who appeared to the overwhelmed couple quieted their fears telling them not to be afraid. To the shepherds out in the fields the angel of the Lord said: “I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).

For Mary and Joseph, this ‘good news’ didn’t look like a perfect path forward. It didn’t mean an easy, carefree life free of challenges. The questions we ask this Christmas, they probably asked a dozen or more times—and with reason!

Maybe I am wrong, but I sure bet they doubted at times.

To trust in God’s goodness, ultimately, isn’t to live a life free of struggle or strife, or to never have doubts during them. Nor is it to never question his providence or wonder, like Longfellow, where peace on earth and good will to men have gone.

Instead, to live a life in step with our good God is to recognize that the evils of this world have, ultimately, met their end in Christ; through his life and through his sacrifice, sin and death and suffering will one day be no more. The lame shall walk, the blind shall see, and the dead shall be raised—these are the promises his coming ushered in for the people of God. The redemption we see now in part, we shall one day see more fully in his coming kingdom. Longfellow was right: “The wrong shall fail” and “the right prevail” in the end.

So, doubts are not wrong, but they do give us a moment to choose faith—as Joseph and Mary did. And that’s even in hard times.

Rather than living in a world of constant questions, we allow this tiny babe in a manger to give us the answer: “God is not dead, nor doth he sleep.”

Jesus is here.

God has come to us.

And he is good—so much better than we ever imagined.

Choose faith.

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Ed Stetzer, Ph.D., is a professor and dean at Wheaton College where he also serves as Executive Director of the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center. He has planted, revitalized, and pastored churches; trained pastors and church planters on six continents; earned two master’s degrees and two doctorates; and he has written hundreds of articles and a dozen books. He is Regional Director for Lausanne North America, is the Editor-in-Chief of Outreach Magazine, and regularly writes for news outlets such as USA Today and CNN. His national radio show, Ed Stetzer Live, airs Saturdays on Moody Radio and affiliates. He serves at his local church, Highpoint Church, as a teaching pastor. Dr. Stetzer is currently living in England and teaching at Oxford University.