Embracing The Mystery
There's not that much information in the Scriptures about the birth of Jesus. The Gospel of Mark doesn't have a birth narrative. Matthew basically fast forwards to the story of the Magi. John begins with a cosmic rush, prophetic language and the voice of John crying in the wilderness.
It's Luke that provides details of Jesus' birth, and it's to Luke's Gospel that we are drawn this time of year as we live in expectation of Christmas Eve and the coming celebration of the arrival of the Messiah.
I read once that the first century Church didn't make much of the Nativity. Early Christians lifted up Jesus' teachings, and celebrated the Resurrection with a great deal of joy, but it wasn't until much later in Church history that Christians began celebrating the birth of Jesus as an integral part of the life and worship of the Church.
I get that. It's a mysterious story. Human beings crave particulars, but we don't get all that many in the Nativity story. Instead we get a lot of signs and wonders--angels singing, shepherds gathering, ancient prophecies fulfilled, a star followed by mysterious magicians from the East...
But there is something about the mystery that calls to us, despite our perceived need to have it all spelled out. And it's this mystery that causes some people to stumble on their way to faith. Instead, they prefer to embrace the cold, calculating response of skepticism. It's safer than the mystery.
Jesus declared to a crowd in Jerusalem, "Whoever believes in me is really believing in the One who sent me. Whoever sees me sees the One who sent me. I have come as light into the world so that whoever believes in me would not stay in darkness." (John 12:44)
That same passage also contains these sobering words, "...many believed in Jesus, even many of the leaders. But because of the Pharisees they did not say they believed in him for fear they would be put out of the synagogue." Then the passage reads, "They loved praise from people more than praise from God."
Don't be afraid to embrace the mystery during these last days of Advent. Don't try to figure out all of the answers to your questions of faith all at once---you won't get there anyway, not in this life. Simply live in expectation and know that the Light is coming, and believe.
And may the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you now and always. Amen.