It’s Advent, the darkest season, and all I want these days is more light. I wake up, and it’s dark. I go to work at first light, and by the time I leave the office, it’s dark again. The other evening at about 6 o’clock, my husband Steve and I drove to a nearby town for a sandwich, and the darkness was thick around us. We were so tired. Do you think they’d notice if we just fell asleep in the restaurant? I ask him.
It’s Advent, on the first Sunday of this new season, the sermon was filled with so many questions: Where does your hope truly life? Where is God working in our midst? How are you going to receive Christ afresh in your heart this year? And I wonder: Are these questions I am willing to ask? Am I willing to enter Advent expectantly again this year?
In Sunday School, we talked about the story of Elizabeth and Zacharias, a priestly couple with a holy ministry to parent John the Baptist. Zacharias learns during his priestly service in the Holy of Holies that Elizabeth will bear the child , and when he dares ask the angel Gabriel, “how will I know this for certain?” he was struck mute. During our discussion, I suggested Elizabeth didn’t know or understand the encounter her husband had with the angel. After all, he was mute, and literacy was very poor. Maybe her five month seclusion during the early months of her pregnancy was just customary, I said.
Later, I remembered that there were no early pregnancy tests, no way to know for Elizabeth to know for certain she was pregnant after so many years of infertility. Maybe she hunkered down those five months because she was afraid to ask, “Do I dare hope?”
Asking questions comes with risks. Questions create defensiveness and suspicion. They come with responses we didn’t anticipate. And sometimes, they force us into seasons of silence until we can truly accept the answers.
What am I really willing to ask? “Asking questions may lead us to worry about things we were blissfully ignorant of before. That may be one of the costs of discipleship,” writes Marilyn McEntyre. And I wonder if a better question might be: what is the cost of not asking questions?
In the story following Zacharias’ angelic encounter, Luke’s gospel tells us that Gabriel is sent on another mission, this time to a city in Galilee called Nazareth. To Mary, engaged to Joseph. In just six months, this is the second announcement of a miraculous birth, and again, the recipient asks a question. This time, the question is not “how will I know for certain?” but rather “how will this be?” The difference is subtle, but it’s a difference that is understood by Gabriel’s response. This time, the question comes from faith not doubt. This time, the question assumes acceptance and action in response.
And this is how I want to ask: expectantly.
What am I willing to ask? May it be the questions that lead to change and action and growth, even if the way forward is costly and the answers are hard.
As you read along with me, I’d love to hear your answers to these same questions. This week, what are you willing to ask?