What’s your question?
Luke 3:7-18

We started with a short video clip with a simple question as the title, “Is Santa in the Bible?” As you watched were you shocked to hear that people from another culture might not understand the way we in the Western world celebrate Christmas?  I know when I first watched this clip (thanks Jonathan) it was like a light turning on for me.  Here is a group of people with no knowledge of our traditions asking us to justify where our beliefs come from, and why we make such a big deal out of it.  They then explain what they do in their culture; they celebrate the birth of Jesus with singing and dancing in the streets.  Their singing and dancing is simple, clear and powerful, they know what it is all about.

Their question is one that I haven’t asked in a long, long time.  But it fits so well with what I’ve been talking about over the last couple of weeks during our Advent season.  What is getting in the way of us simply celebrating the birth of Jesus without letting all of the other trimmings get in the way?

Their simple question helps us refocus on the basic truth of Christmas, Jesus Christ, Son of God came into the world as a baby, to be our saviour.

Its right that people ask questions though isn’t it?  How would we know what is right and what is wrong if we don’t ask?  It worked for the people gathered around John the Baptist, they asked and they learned.  Maybe the answer wasn’t what they were looking for, but John certainly set them straight.  The context for them was John’s warnings that they needed to do more than simply claim their ancestry as their path to salvation, they asked, “What then should we do?”  His first answer called for a bit of social justice, “If you have two coats, give one away to someone who needs it, and do the same with your food”.

Then some tax collectors came along and asked what they should do?  They were told, specific to them, not to collect any more than was prescribed by the king.  Next were the soldiers, they were told not to threaten anyone to extort money from them, but to be happy with the wages that they receive.

We all have a context that we live in, our social circles, school connections, sporting clubs, friends, neighbours and relatives and work situations.  For each of us there are lists of ethical questions that each of us will ask depending on what we are confronted with on a daily basis.

Our primary school council chairperson in his speech at the closing service of the school year on Friday night encouraged the children and in turn everyone gathered there, to never stop asking questions.

Where do we go to have our faith and ethics questions answered?

We don’t have John the Baptist on hand to ask questions of, and Jesus ascended into heaven well before our time, so we can’t ask him, so where do we go to have our questions answered?  Of course we go to the Word of God, to the Bible.  And then if we can’t find exactly what we are looking for there, what then.  Well we could look to our Catechism, Luther’s simple teaching of Scripture, or we could talk to a pastor or fellow Christian and ask their opinion.  Luther was a classic example of asking the hard questions.  When he thought what the Catholic church was doing was wrong he went to Scripture to test it, then he challenged those in authority to explain why they taught what they did.  He also encouraged people to constantly test things against Scripture, to never stop asking questions.

Maybe that’s where the What Would Jesus Do? movement came from?.  People couldn’t work out what the right things were to do in a given situation, so they looked to Jesus to be the example of right living for them.  Do you ask questions?  Do you wonder why you believe certain things; do you wonder where your traditions come from?

It’s often not until we are challenged on things that we have to stop and think.  Do you ever put yourself in situations where you are asked to justify what you do or think or say?  I think many of us avoid such situations.  It’s much easier to gather around us a group of people who agree with what we believe in than to constantly have our beliefs questioned.

Here’s my challenge to you this week.  As you go about your week, at work, at home, as you prepare for your Christmas celebrations, as you sing songs, hold family devotions, ask yourself, why?  Why do you do it, why do you do it that way, what is your motivation?  If you’re having trouble doing that ask someone else to help you, to ask you the why questions.  You may be surprised at what you discover. 

It could be and I hope it is, that you are affirmed in what you are doing and what you believe in.  If not, seek advice, from me, from a friend, another person in the congregation, in Scripture. 

Over the coming months you are going to be encouraged to ask questions in your home, to each other.  The basic premise of the faith five that we will be talking about constantly is that you begin by asking what were the highs and lows of your day.  This helps build relationships with each other.  Then you can read a theme verse together from Scripture and talk about how that verse relates to the highs and lows.  Then you pray for one another and finally bless each other.  What a wonderful way to put questions into actions and build relationships and faith together.

Then if someone else asks you why you do certain things in this Christmas celebration and in the years beyond, you will be prepared to give witness to the hope you have in Christ Jesus.  If you have asked and answered those questions it makes it much easier to answer them when asked by someone else, and then for you to live in the peace that passes all understanding.