I want their hearts to be encouraged and united in love, so that they may have all the riches of assured understanding and have the knowledge of God’s mystery, that is, Christ himself, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Advent is upon us. For the next 23 days, we will be at a manger. We will be other places too: fields and temples and such. But our focus will be in Bethlehem, on a manger. And why? Because Emmanuel has come. Hope is here. And we’d be wise to take notice.
You see, Advent asks something of us, to examine ourselves, to look honestly at what type of people we are (and ought to be) in light of his coming. So I ask you to open your heart and mind and be receptive to whatever it is God wants you to see.
This is no easy task. Barriers to spiritual receptivity outnumber the sand grains in the Sahara. But I also believe the Spirit can work around, through, or in-spite of anything that distracts us from the manger.
So we begin.
It’s fitting that we start with mystery. In part because few barriers are more destructive to Advent than an unwillingness to embrace mystery. Also in part because few cultures have a more negative view of mystery than ours.
Look, I’ll just give it to you straight. If you ‘spect to find Jesus in the next few weeks (or ever), the perceptions, the desire for control, the attempts at reason, they all must go.
The arrival of Jesus is mysterious. All of it. Any attempt to make sense of the Incarnation is both futile and dangerous.
Tell me what makes sense about the Incarnation? Where’s the logic in the Ancient of Days putting on a coat of flesh? Emmanuel, the God-man, or man-God, which is it? He’s equally both. The Creator of the cosmos is now fully dependent on two mere humans for survival. Think about that. God is dependent on man.
And one of these humans, Mary, the mother of Jesus, is a virgin. Yet, she is a mother. The only woman in history who can make such a claim. Explain this birth to me? Mary brings new life into the world. But this life has been for all of eternity.
And the circumstances of Jesus’s birth? Why must the Savior of the world breathe his first in a manger? God is outside of time. It bows at his command. So why not command time to pump the brakes on Jesus’s arrival? Until when? I’m not sure. Anytime, it seems to me, besides this time. Jesus deserves better. A palace and a crib. Is that too much to ask?
The whole thing is non-sensical.
Yet, we mostly understand the implications of the Incarnation. Hope is here. Abundant life is now a present reality. Satan is defeated. Death is done. The shackles of sin…removed. All of God’s promises…fulfilled.
None of these realities are possible without Advent.
Mystery might make us uncomfortable. But it gives birth to the greatest, most transformative realities. That’s the message of the Advent, that mystery is the birthplace of Truth, Hope, Peace, Joy. We experience God once we cease trying to make sense of him.We find Immanuel once we stop trying to figure him out.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer says, “The lack of mystery in our modern life is our downfall and our poverty. A human life is worth as much as the respect it holds for the mystery.”
How much is your life worth?
We do not approach the manger to make sense of the mystery. We approach to worship. The manger isn’t a place for investigation. It’s a place for experiencing Jesus. “For unto us a child has been born. He is the Messiah, the Lord.”
Grace and peace, friends.
Spend time reflecting on the mystery of God revealed in the flesh as Jesus. How does this mystery change the way you see God?
Father, your greatness is immeasurable. Your power is without limits. Yet, you sent Jesus to earth in the form of a baby. I know I can’t fathom this mystery. Release in me any desire to figure you out. Amen.
Frank is lead writer and editor for the blog at Bayside church. He is also a husband, father and Jesus-follower. Occasionally he plays golf. Often he drinks coffee.