By Mark A. Taylor
The gospel is born and bathed in mystery. How can we understand, how can we respond to what Jesus said and who Jesus was?
He commanded, “Be holy, even as I am holy.” How is that possible?
He told Nicodemus, “You must be born again,” and with the puzzled Pharisee, the first-time reader asks, “How can a grown man climb back into the womb?”
The greatest mystery, of course, is the fact of Jesus, God’s Son, walking and weeping and working on planet earth as a man. How did this happen? And how should we react to it? God with us—it’s unfathomable when first considered. Especially when “God with us” actually means “God as us.”
He was “tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin” (Hebrews 4:15). You mean Jesus, my Lord, saw the chance to lust and lie, gossip and gorge, run from conflict, and hide from responsibility? You mean the temptation that dogs me week in and week out faced him too? Fully god and fully that man? It’s too much to grasp.
But there’s more. Even the apostle Paul called it a mystery: “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27). Not only was Jesus born of a peasant girl in the commonest of circumstances. Not only did he live sinlessly and then bear all the world’s sins in a cruel execution. Not only did he rise up from a sealed grave to prove his divinity and to assure us his words were truth. Now, for all who make him Lord, he offers his own presence—not only with us and as us, but now in us.
Of course, we’ve heard all this before. These words roll off our tongue, rote as our phone numbers. Matt Proctor pointed this out at the North American Christian Convention this summer when he talked about “awesome.” We use the word to describe TV programs, good food, or the discovery of an empty parking space. But the facts of the gospel and the presence of Jesus? Ho-hum.
Never is this truer than with our celebration of Christmas. We rush from event to event. We buy and cook and decorate. We display nativity scenes and tell the world to “keep Christ in Christmas.” The best of us give to those who won’t give back. We make sure to plan meaningful programs—or at least to attend one.
But do we call it “awesome”? Do we tremble to realize that the baby in the manger was the God of the universe? It’s a fact too great to fully fathom, a mystery too meaningful to take for granted. And for those who know the story best, Christmas is an opportunity to ponder anew who he was and who he is and who we’re becoming because of him.