There is a hook to mystery that draws us into a story. By its very definition it means something that is hidden. And who has not searched for hidden things? Answers to problems, lost items, or solutions to who- dun-its? A mystery is compelling. It surrounds a subject with intrigue and captivates one’s imagination.
This year, as I navigate the days and weeks before Christmas, I want to recapture its mystery – the inconceivable truth that God became man.
God’s presence in the Old Testament was unambiguous. Events ranging from an audible voice to hand writing on a wall brought Him close. Visions, a burning bush, and pillars of clouds and fire assured of His presence. But after 400 years of silence, he came into our midst in a form few recognized.
God entered our world as a vulnerable and dependent baby. He would have experienced cold and hunger. Absent was the antiseptic smell of a delivery room. Instead, scent of animal hides and excrement surrounded him. Straw likely bristled against the divine face as animals licked tiny fingers.
Months earlier, a young girl who had known no man, accepted an angel’s message of a Holy Spirit conception for the entrance of the Savior into the world. Does the mystery get any deeper than this? And yet, this part is central to the story.
Scottish theologian Donald Macleod writes,
“The virgin birth is posted on guard at the door of the mystery of Christmas; and none of us must think of hurrying past it. It stands on the threshold of the New Testament, blatantly supernatural, defying our rationalism, informing us that all that follows belongs to the same order as itself and that if we find it offensive there is no point in proceeding further.”
Like Mary, I ask “How can this be”? The Christmas story itself is so simple that a child understands and readily accepts it, yet so profound that its essence should take our breaths away.
As a child, I remember looking to the starry heavens, not only for Santa skirting the clouds and rooftops, but also in wonder about that holy night so long ago. The years of adulthood and responsibility have dulled the flame of wonder in me. I pray that my soul would not become so secure and so wise that His plan no longer amazes.
Mystery enlarges my faith. It takes it out of my sticky little hands that try to mold, shape and make it manageable and throws open the doors to a firestorm. To say I just do not “get it” would be to put it mildly. How does one grasp the tension of a baby that is fully God and fully human? But that firestorm makes me hungry for more. And the message of this season rests on the fact that God was in that manger.
May we never rush past this in the haste of the season.