“Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty? They are higher than the heavens above — what can you do? They are deeper than the depths below — what can you know? Their measure is longer than the earth and wider than the sea. …”
Job 11:7-9 NIV
Mystery seems an odd word for Christmas. It feels a little misplaced in a season we celebrate with such surety, whether we believe in God or not.
But a look into the definition reveals its accuracy.
mystery… noun… 1a: a religious truth that one can know only by revelation and cannot fully understand b(1): any of the 15 events (as the Nativity, the Crucifixion, or the Assumption) serving as a subject for meditation during the saying of the rosary… 2a: something not understood or beyond understanding: enigma… 3: profound, inexplicable, or secretive quality or characterMerriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (11th Ed.)
Sometimes, familiarity stifles the wonder-full. Just consider the wonder of electricity, indoor plumbing, refrigeration, big-box stores, and shopping centers. Once upon a time, these were all wonders. How they work and how they came to be a mystery to most of us, except the creators.
I think the same happens with the wonders of God. When was the last time you wondered at another rising of the sun? Or the dependability of the year’s seasons? the phases of the moon? or the beating of your heart? Each one, and more, everyday wonders we expect with complacency — mysteries to us, really — but not to the Creator.
The mysteries of God are beyond our ability to understand. So it must follow, the birth of God as a Babe is full of mystery.
Mary faced a mystery: How does a virgin get pregnant?
And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy — the Son of God. …”
Luke 1:34-35 ESV
Okay. But HOW?! The angel’s answer to her question of How? is a mystery in itself. How will the Holy Spirit overshadow and bring forth a child?
Mind-bending mystery. Mysterious callings explained with just more mystery.
After receiving the wonder filling news of her pregnancy, Mary took a trip to visit her relative Elizabeth (Luke 1:36). The angel Gabriel told Mary, Elizabeth was pregnant, too. Because of her old age and infertility issues, Elizabeth’s pregnancy was also a bit of a mystery. Perhaps she might support Mary during this precarious time.
Mary arrived at Elizabeth’s home and gave a simple greeting. In turn, she received an exuberant reception.
And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come me? …”
Luke 1:41-42 ESV
Elizabeth carried Zechariah’s son, the one the angel said would prepare the way for Jesus on earth. Even in utero, John prepared a supernatural welcome for Jesus and His mother. Filled with the Holy Spirit, leaping for joy in his mother’s womb, John mysteriously conveyed the truth of Mary’s pregnancy to his mom.
Wonder upon wonder. Mystery upon mystery.
Mary wondering how Elizabeth knew! Elizabeth wondering why she deserved such a blessed visit.
Beyond our comprehension, the Holy Spirit, the explanation for the wonders of Christmas, a mystery in and of Himself.
Mystery upon mystery.
Yet, there is still more mystery woven through the Christmas story.
After giving birth in a barn, Mary and Joseph tucked the One wrapped in cloths of mystery into a feed trough. Then unexpected visitors arrived.
When the angels went away from them, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning the child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.
Luke 2:15-19 ESV
Can you imagine the surprise on the faces of Mary and Joseph when they realized the shepherds came to see Jesus and not bed down sheep?
Another, How in the world?! moment. And the shepherds shared the message they received from the angel.
“…I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. …”
Luke 2:10-11 ESV
Mary’s mystery baby, the Babe, according to the angelic messenger, was good news for ALL people. A Savior born for you, the plural form in Greek. Christ the Lord for you all, or y’all as we say in Texas.
Still more, mystery and wonder to embrace.
Poor Mary, she pondered and treasured what she heard that night. The safe delivery of her son was good news to her, but for the whole world? I imagine yet another, How will this be? rang through her mind.
Wondering. Pondering. I can relate to Mary this season in my life, and not just in response to Christmas.
I have a mystery or two or three in my life. Loved ones wandering in darkness and unbelief. Ones, I believe, God has told me will return to Him. By faith, I trust and receive His messages as promises. But from where I sit, what I see, fills me with Mary’s question: How will this be?
God has even shown me wonders, mysterious wonders, to confirm the messages I receive from Him by faith.
But watching and waiting tests faith, especially when faith means being sure of what you hope for and certain of what you do not see.
By faith, we learn from Mary to embrace the mysteries of God. Hold fast to His Word as promises of truth.
And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”
Luke 1:38 ESV
Faith requires we embrace the mysteries of God. Surrender to His extraordinary, supernatural reign over all creation from outside time and space.
To live with His mystery, we surrender reason to wonder, accepting He rules in ways we can never comprehend.
Mystery surrounds God and His work. We see it clearly in the Christmas story. Mary swept up in the wonder of mysteries as one favored by God.
For all of us, mystery encapsulates our relationship with God. Accepting with awe, we will never fully understand His ways is the way of faith.
So many mysteries.
What exactly happened on the cross?
Why did He have to die?
How do I relate to One I can’t see? hear? touch?
How do I know when He is speaking to me?
How does He bring good out of evil?
When we say Yes to Him, He’s born in our hearts, much like the way He entered Bethlehem.
Making room for Him in our lives to grow us in faith makes our lives a mystery, setting us on pondering How will this be? And trusting His Word and His work even when we cannot see.
For we live by believing and not by seeing.
2Corinthians 5:7 NLT
Do you see the mystery wrapped up in Christmas? Why or why not?
How does your heart respond to the mysteries of God? What emotions are stir?
Pride and arrogance are the primary barriers to accepting the mysteries of God. Check your heart today for any resistance to embracing Him, His Word, His promises, by faith.
Ask God to prepare your mind, will, and emotions to surrender to His mysterious, supernatural, sovereign rule over all creation, including you.