God is mysterious to us, and rightly so. His ways are so far above ours that they defy our comprehension. This brings us both delight and fear. We have delight because what He does is so marvelous that it causes us to exclaim with Paul, “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable His judgments, and His paths beyond tracing out!” But we also fear, because we can’t control God or how He chooses to display His wonders and His power. How does one deal with a God whose goodness is so great that a full-frontal view of it would kill us? Seeing Him so untamed reminds us what mere specks in the universe we are, and it unnerves us. Our only hope of peace comes in remembering His character, and seeking His goodness and love in His unfolding mysteries.
While mystery takes on a lot of connotations to us from our culture’s stories, in a biblical sense mystery is simply something that has been revealed that was previously unknown. God’s revelations of Himself and His plans have rolled out slowly, one revelation building on another. A bit like a good mystery story we would enjoy, the clues are revealed over time build over time, and lead the reader to gradually put together a conclusion about what has happened. Thus, God reveals Himself as our Creator to begin with, then starts to lay the groundwork for the revelation of His role as Redeemer and Savior.
First, He covers the nakedness of His sinful creatures and promised that One would come to set things right. Then He established the shedding of blood for remission of sin, and laid out all the rituals of the sacrifice, worship, and even gave glimpses of Who and what was to come through the tabernacle/temple and all their furnishings—each of these was a clue to how His plan of redemption would unfold, and the restoration of union with His people would be worked out. Along with all these glimpses, His prophets and psalmists gave us clues to the true nature of the coming Messiah. God’s ways of holiness and mercy, loving discipline, and promises for His people through history also added to the revelation those who seek after God should see as evidence leading to the conclusion of who God is and what He was up to.
And, yet, God still persists in keeping an air of mystery—in part because we most likely couldn’t understand if He explained it all, even in the simplest of terms. And, in part, because it develops our trust in Him and deepens our faith in His wisdom, goodness, and love when we cannot see everything laid out plainly before us. God reveals what we need to know in order to have faith for the rest which He has yet to reveal. Therefore, before the cross Jesus did not explain all the whys and wherefores of His impending death for our salvation. And, even when He did speak plainly, those closest to Him could not take it in because it was beyond their comprehension, and because God was temporarily protecting them from knowledge too wonderful for them to grasp in that moment.
Christ’s coming at what we call Christmas is full of the mysteries of God, as well as some of the revelations of what previously had been shrouded to human understanding. It is a mystery that God would be so merciful to us as to redeem creatures as rebellious and wicked as we are. It is a mystery why He would want to come down to our level in the first place. It is a mystery how Jesus could be incarnated as fully God and fully man. It is a mystery that the infinite God would confine Himself to a single cell, uniting with a human egg, and growing cell by cell, just as we all have done. It is a mystery how Almighty God could allow Himself to be so vulnerable. It is a mystery how the most glorious God would choose humility and obscurity. It is a mystery how God could love us so much that He would give His life for us. It is a mystery how eternal God could die. It is a mystery how His suffering and death can pay the price for all the sins of all who will believe. It is a mystery how redeemed souls are brought into glorious union with the Godhead. It is a mystery how the Holy Spirit empowered Jesus to rise from the grave and conquer death. It is a mystery that we are somehow “crucified with Christ’ and also “raised with Him.” It is a mystery that we are coheirs with Christ and will reign with Him. It is a mystery that when we see Him we will be like Him.
All of these mysteries, and so many more, surround us, but have we lost our wonder? Do we take time to consider the marvelous mysteries that are our heritage, our promise, our future? This Christmas let’s renew our awe for the great mysteries of which we partake each day, wrapped up in the gift of this Son of God, given to us a great cost and with enormous love. Let us become thrilled once again by all God has done for us, and has promised yet to do, as these mysteries continue to unfold.