Scripture Passage for Reflection: 1 Corinthians 15:51
Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed.
This Season of Advent is ripe with mystery. I guess it’s conventional and comfortable to take all the stories as they are written, to make sure that Jesus was born the way we assume him to be born, to make sure that there was nothing that might be in question. And so we spend the season praying over and over to God that God will somehow get our perspectives straight; in other words, that God will swoop in and finally clear it all up for us once and for all. But mystery still remains! There are oh so many questions. Why this way? Why Mary? Why that time? (I mean the world wasn’t any more ready for it than it is now!) Why NOT now? Why THIS man? Why THIS place? Was it in a manger or a grotto or the back room attached to the house that was built for the animals in that century? And why didn’t they have room? I mean, really, if God was coming into the world, why didn’t God at least make reservations for the occasion? So much of this doesn’t make sense at all. Wouldn’t it have been more efficient of God’s coming into the world was better documented, perhaps well-explained so that we’d have something with which to work? It would definitely be oh so much easier.
The truth is, surety and doubt, belief and questions are all a part of our faith. They are all a part of the story. They are the way the story unfolds. When I was in seminary, Perkins arranged for students to participate in a small question and answer type discussion with noted author and screenwriter, John Irving. One of the questions that someone asked him was how he went about constructing his stories. The question was, of course, not surprising. The answer, though, might have been to some. Irving said that when he sat down to write, he always wrote the ending first and then backed through the story, creating characters, plot, and theme. The point of the story is, after all, that with which we are left. Regardless of where it’s located in the work, the point is usually realized at the end. I think that’s what God has done. God wrote the ending first, the recreation of all there is, the Kingdom of God in its fullest, and then began to back through the story. So this coming of the Godself into our midst becomes the turning point that leads us that Way.
Eternal life was already there for us written into the deepest part of our being, the very image of God within us. But the way to that life is murky at best. So God came not as one wielding weath and power and the things of this world but as one holding nothing, a tiny baby with nothing but the love of two people who had promised to show him the Way. God never intended that this way would be one of certitude. The journey is one of seeking, of questioning, of wrestling, until one finds his or her way to God. Having all the answers would have shut us down long ago. It is the mystery that invites us to journey. Another noted author, Andrew Greeley, once wrote, “Life is prodigious, overwhelming. In that there is mystery, hint, and perhaps sacrament…The excessiveness of life is the best sacrament we could ask for, a hint of how powerful, how determined, and how excessive You are.” Maybe God’s plan was not to bring the Divine down to our understanding but to give us something to journey toward. Mary’s part was a journey into the unknown. So was Joseph’s. So is ours. But it is only unknown until we embrace it as Home.
God…leads us step by step, from event to event. Only afterwards, as we look back over the way we have come and reconsider certain important moments in our lives in the light of all that has followed them, or when we survey the whole progress of our lives, do we experience the feeling of having been led without knowing it, the feeling that God has mysteriously guided us. (Paul Tournier)
Reflection: What part of this mystery is the hardest for you? Where do you need to journey?
Grace and Peace,