I’m not a big fan of surprises; I would rather know something in advance than have something sprung on me at the last minute. When I was younger, I would sneak into my parents’ room before Christmas and root through their closet to find the presents they had bought for me. I didn’t want to be surprised on Christmas morning, I wanted to know all that could be known.
What are you like when it comes to a surprise or a mystery?
- When you encounter an unexpected change to your schedule, do you:
- Go with the flow. Life is filled with unknowns. Who needs a plan?
- Ask a few questions, come up a new plan, and then move forward?
- Complain, become inflexible, and stick to the original plan?
- When planning your next vacation, do you:
- Buy an open-ended ticket, arrive at the destination, and make plans up as you go?
- Buy a return ticket, book the hotel in advance, but allow some room for spontaneity?
- Write your name in your underwear, draw up a detailed itinerary for each day, and never, under any circumstances, deviate from the plan? Fun = Accomplishing the Plan.
- It’s your birthday and you’re turning 25, or 50, or 70. You walk in the front door to discover that a surprise party has been thrown for you. Do you:
- Gush with delight, work the room, and tell everyone that this is the best birthday ever?
- Momentarily exhibit shock, take a couple of deep breaths, and then begin to have fun?
- Turn around and walk out the door?
Some of us have more capacity for surprise than others, but one thing is certain: the Incarnation was a surprise that unveiled a mystery.
Listen to the words of Paul, found in 1 Corinthians 2:6-10.
“6 We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 However, as it is written: ‘What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived’—the things God has prepared for those who love him—10 these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit.”
In the biblical way of thinking, a mystery is not a secret to be kept, but rather, something that God has not yet revealed. And because God is infinite, we cannot unravel the mystery of God from our end of things; only God can reveal God.
Thomas Torrance writes, “In Jesus Christ, the Son of God took our human nature upon himself and made it his own so completely that he came among us as man; and by what he was as man, he revealed to us what he was and is as God.”
By becoming human, without ceasing to be God, Jesus took our broken, sinful humanity upon Himself, and in the power of the Spirit lived a vicarious human life – the One for the many. By becoming human, without ceasing to be God, Jesus became both Priest and Sacrifice.
All of humanity’s hopes – for peace with God and one another, for forgiveness, for healing, for wholeness – have been fulfilled in and through Jesus Christ. The life He lived, He lived for us; the death He died, He died for us. One author writes, “Born in a stable, wriggling in straw, [He was] fully committed to life in the raw…To a world in need He did not send another, God the Son became God our Brother.”
Perhaps in recent weeks you’ve been brought face to face with the unexpected – you’ve been surprised by something (either good or bad). You may find yourself in the middle of a mystery; you don’t understand what’s happening or why.
In the Incarnation we discover that God can be found in the most unlikely and unexpected places. Through the death and resurrection of Jesus we discover that something good and beautiful can come from pain and loss. If this is true, then surely Jesus can work all things for our good, even the painful things in our lives. When we look to Jesus, we see God as He is: a faithful, merciful, loving God.
In this Advent season, may God give you – and your church – a fresh revelation of the Living Christ.
Grace and peace to you,
 T.F. Torrance, The Trinitarian Faith, 55.