Mysteries. Good to read in a novel. Interesting to watch on a movie or television screen. Puzzling to understand when we encounter them in life.
This season hinges on a mystery… God in a human being? How can that be? And why would that be? The big word for this puzzle is incarnation meaning “in the flesh.” The Creator of the universe becoming a created being! A mystery like no other. Many mysteries can be solved, figured out, pieced together. Not this one. There is no formula to explain it, no analysis to break it down, no instrument to make it clear. This mystery can only be believed, accepted, trusted. God-with-us: the name says it all. We have to leave the “how” to God. But we may know something of the “why”: love, grace, life… God came in Jesus to show us love, to offer us grace, to bring us life abundant…
In the opening to his gospel, John speaks of this mystery in poetry:
In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The Word was with God in the beginning. Everything came into being through the Word and without the Word nothing came into being. What came into being through the Word was life, and the life was the light for all people… The Word became flesh and made his home among us. We have seen his glory, glory like that of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.” (1:1-3, 14)
It’s beautiful even if it baffles us! And it is The Mystery that makes all the difference in us. In her delightful book Speaking of Sin; the Lost Language of Salvation, Barbara Brown Taylor helps us see that difference clearly. She writes,
Deep down in human existence there is an experience of seeing the light and turning away from it, either because it is too beautiful to behold or because it spoils the dank but familiar darkness… For ages and ages, this experience has been called sin – deadly alienation from the source of all life. By some definitions, it implies willful turning away from God. By others, it is an unavoidable feature of being human. Either way, it is a name for the experience of being cut off from air, light, sustenance, community, hope, meaning, life. The point is to know the difference between light and darkness, and to recognize the pull of darkness when it comes.”
Jesus the Light shines on. Christ the Life lives on. God the gracious Word has made it so. No explaining to do… singing will suffice! Alleluias to our Lord Emmanuel!