“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)
Have you ever wondered who or what to believe? It is a well known fact that we live in an age of instant information. Google is accessed 2 billion times a day. A day! And yes, I used Google to find that information. That’s just one search engine. We all have the world at our fingertips. A popular online medical site has tools for checking your symptoms, researching health conditions from A-Z, and even allows for live chat with someone qualified in the medical profession. Some doctors’ offices allow for E-Visits–you simply send the symptoms you are experiencing, and a diagnosis will be made based on what you send. Medication will be prescribed and sent to your pharmacy if needed, without you ever having to step foot in your doctor’s office! With the touch of a few keys, I can find out what the weather is in Barrow, Alaska. I can, within seconds, find the highest elevation in Brazil. Need to know the population of Nauru? Google has an answer for that. In fact, when you type “population of Nauru” into Google’s search bar, you will get about 1,720,00 results as well as an outline of this tiny island and a picture of its flag. Did you catch that number? 1,720,000 results for a search on a tiny island that, I would bet, the majority of the world does not even know it exists! Oh, and Google also tells that those 1, 720,000 results took 0.66 seconds to retrieve!
In this age of information gathered in milliseconds by the touch of a finger, it can sometimes be hard to know what is really true. There was a television commercial for car insurance that aired not too long ago. A young guy was taking pictures of damage to his car and uploading them to his insurance company for a claim. A friend of his, a young lady, came out of the apartment building in the background and asked him what he was doing. He explained to her that he was filing a claim online with his insurance company. She said she didn’t think he could do that. Her reasoning was she saw it on the internet, and that everything on the internet is true. He asked her where she heard that. Her response: the internet. She then told him she was going on a blind date with someone she had met on the internet, and, he was French! Her obviously not French blind date walks up, takes her by the arm, and in a gruff voice says, “Oui.” We get a chuckle out of the young woman’s naivety, yet so often we are guilty of the same thing. We are quick to believe something we hear or read online. The problem, though, is when we read something that contradicts something else we have read.
As a person with a chronic illness, like most people, when I was first diagnosed I turned to the world wide web to find out as much as I could about my illness. I wanted to know what I could be facing. I wanted to know if there might be a cure out there. I wanted to know if my children were at risk for developing the same condition. I wanted to know how to live as close to a normal life as possible despite having this disease. I found, though, that the more I researched, the more contradictory information I found. It isn’t just with my illness that I have seen this either. In the last several years there has been a large number of people avoiding gluten in their diets. Gluten free products have multiplied in grocery stores, restaurants, and bakeries across this country. “Experts” sing the praises of eliminating all forms of gluten from your diet. Interestingly, I came across two articles in the last month that warned of the dangers of eliminating gluten from one’s diet. Both authors did studies on adults who believed eliminating gluten was a healthy thing to do, and both found that, in adults who didn’t really need to eliminate it due to a viable health condition, the elimination of gluten was doing more harm than good. Their studies showed that otherwise healthy people who eliminated gluten from their diets, actually were training their bodies to be overly sensitive to foods. They also showed that, for people without a health condition requiring that gluten be eliminated, they were depriving their bodies of nutrients found in gluten containing foods. Celiac disease and actual wheat allergy affects 1.4% of the population, yet estimates based on gluten free product sales point to nearly 30% of Americans eating gluten free.
How does a person know what is true and what is not? How do we make decisions in the face of so much conflicting information? I have had to deal with these questions in my own search for health. I don’t think it surprises anyone that our food supply is not as “clean” as it once was. The increasing use of pesticides and growth hormones certainly cannot be good for our bodies. God designed us to need food; the problem in this day and age is that our food is no longer what God designed. How do we know that one person is right and another wrong in their research? If food was the answer for everything, if eating a cleaner diet or no gluten cured cancer or Lupus or MS, then wouldn’t these diseases be eradicated? I have wrestled with these questions over the last 2 years. I often think of the line from the movie “Christmas Vacation”. Clark is telling his cousin’s children that the radio reported that Santa’s sleigh was picked up on radar. His cousin, Eddie, not the sharpest crayon in the box, looks at him and says, “Seriously, Clark?”
Over two thousand years ago, the prophet Isaiah told of a future event. A virgin will become pregnant and will give birth to a boy. That baby boy will grow up to be the Savior of the world. I wonder if the people around him looked at him in disbelief.
“Seriously, Isaiah? You are telling us that a virgin will get pregnant. Without the seed of a man to impregnate her? That is impossible! We took biology. We know how it works, and that isn’t how it works.”
Isaiah’s words were confirmed hundreds of years later when an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream. The angel told Joseph that his fiancée, Mary, would indeed be pregnant, but he was not be ashamed of her, for this pregnancy was not the result of any sexual relations with a man. The angel repeated the words of Isaiah to Joseph. Joseph believed the angel. I wonder if Joseph had access to Google if he would have googled the possibility of a virgin conceiving? And, if he did, how many results would have been returned and which ones would Joseph have believed? Joseph didn’t have Google. He had something far more valuable and reliable. He had faith. He knew God was trustworthy and that’s all he needed to know.
In this day of instant information and conflicting opinions, I pray I am able to step away from the noise of the internet and spend some time reflecting on the miracle of what took place that first Christmas day. I pray that my head and my heart are not overwhelmed with the worlds’ ideas of what Christmas is supposed to be. I pray I do not get caught up in things that really do not matter. Satan would love to distract me with the busyness that comes with the season, but I pray my eyes would be fixed on the baby in the manger–not the Santa in the mall. The world’s Christmas contradicts the Christians’ Christmas.
Which one will you believe?