Why has this happened to me?

Published 10:23 am Saturday, December 25, 2021

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By Dr. Charles Qualls

Over the last couple of decades at least, one of the most popular Christmas songs has been “Mary Did You Know?” The song is catchy, I get it.

I find myself humming the song now and then when I’m walking around or driving. It’s comforting in the same way that a nice helping of mac-and-cheese or mashed potatoes are at the holiday times. 

But if we’ve paid minimal attention at church, we know the answer don’t we? She knew. Mary knew. Our Bible stories of the Advent season tell us. Just before our scripture text this week in Luke 1: 39-45, the angel Gabriel came and told her. There’s that other song, her Magnificat, that will come just after our scripture text.  

In this week’s story, she talks it all over with her cousin. This is the last Sunday before Christmas. Soon we will be lost in the wonder of the story. 

If we are people of faith, then that Christmas story is right up there as perhaps the greatest story or news that ever breaks into our lives. The birth of Jesus Christ is accentuated by an equally revered story, that of his triumph at the Tomb.

Parker Palmer has said, “As people are dying, they don’t ask the question ‘Should I have been more self-centered in my life, more self-serving or self-protecting in my life?’ They may muse more on regrets or on values. They may consider the people that they wish they had allowed to shape their days. 

How easy it is for us to make our lives revolve around our own selves. A big question, if my faith isn’t leading my life, is what can I achieve…what can I do… what can I bring in from the outside that will make me feel grounded? What will make me feel centered, fulfilled or alive? 

Our culture can influence us to have a hunger to find something out there, rather than inside us. Christmas is a powerful reminder that for us to live that way is not the way. Instead, for us to live from the inside out is a better, healthier path. 

Now when the power of our hope and salvation dawns, the stage has cleared and the spotlight falls on two poor, unknown expectant cousins. Inside a young woman who was willing, a young woman who was uncertain and probably just starting to figure out what her life was going to be about, the light of the world was conceived.

At that moment, the Holy Spirit makes Elizabeth’s own child jump! She already understands that Mary’s baby will be special above all others. She senses that the Lord himself has come to see her. 

One preacher picked up on this happening and observed, “The One who is able to be a part of our lives has come. The One who is able to preside overall that is happening in the world has come. The One who is able to renew and to guide, to give meaning and purpose to our lives, has come.” 

Then, he shifted and said, “My Lord has come. Your Lord has come. I’m not sure why God would have done such a thing. But God did.” 

This was the last Sunday we’ll consider God’s grace before we come together on Christmas Eve. Just now, though, is where you get to decide what you’ll do with this story. Now is where you get to decide if you’ll give in to the busy-ness that could be waiting for you just outside your doors.

Or, whether you’ll carve out some room in your spirit to journey with these two young mothers and their babies who ended up delivering unto us such welcomed news? If your faith is leading your life, then what is it that God is doing on the inside of you that should shape you from the inside-out? 

Maybe you do need a quiet moment in what’s left of this Advent. Maybe your Christmas could still be a powerful and grateful celebration, but you’ll have to steal back from life what it can so easily take from you this week.

Most of us only utter this sentence as we feel sorry for ourselves. But what if, as we see evidence of God among us or when we get to share with someone from our bounty, we ask the same question we hear Elizabeth ask in our story: “Why has this happened to me?”

DR. CHARLES QUALLS is senior pastor at Franklin Baptist Church. Contact him at 757-562-5135.