Permit me to riff on a popular Christmas song. It's the most mysterious time of the year.
Yes, it is definitely a wonderful time of the year, and I pray that your Christmas celebrations are full of joy. But let us take time to ponder the mystery. The Christian faith bears witness to a truly unprecedented event: the Creator God, the one true God, takes human nature. Immanuel has come to dwell with people.
This basic message about the nature of Jesus the Messiah, standing out across the pages of the New Testament, sets in motion a chain of logic. Further searching leads us to see God's nature as Trinity - Father, Son, and Holy Spirit - each operating distinctly but in unity of nature and purpose. We Christians are so accustomed to talking of God this way that we grow numb to the staggering reach of the vision.
We can never grow weary of pondering the mystery. So, as a little exercise, let me offer this item from my own practice. In my morning prayer time, I use the daily Scripture readings from the Book of Common Prayer. Today's readings (12/20/22) are Psalm 66 and 67 (each day has readings from the Psalms), Isaiah 11:10-16, Revelation 20:11-21:8, and Luke 1:5-25. In Isaiah, we see a day when the Lord will bring home to Israel a remnant and the root of Jesse will stand as a signal to the peoples. In Revelation, we see the great white throne judgment, as the dead stand before the Lord. Are their names written in the book of life? In Luke, we find Zechariah in the temple receiving a vision from Gabriel, about having a son who will prepare the people for the Lord's coming.
What we see here are three moments in history, brought together by a canonical understanding of the Bible as a whole. The specific details of each passage concern me less, at this point, than this background vision that organizes Scripture into these daily readings. That we have a Bible - a canon - a collection of many books gathered into one Book, is itself mysterious. Long before we had the kind of printing technology that allows us to have all these books in a form easily holdable in one hand, our forbears were convinced that the many work together to tell one grand Story, one account of God's saving action in the world. The one true God, our Creator God, Creator of all peoples, oversees human destiny. All nations, all peoples, all history, owe their existence to this God and he has come to us to make himself known.
In a canonical reading of Scripture, God is showing us something that we could not cypher out on our own. We live in an age of deep skepticism about the Bible, but also of deep confusion. One of those points of confusion is that, for many people, God is silent and absent. But the Bible shows the opposite. God is constantly speaking and has plenty to say.
This we know through a canonical understanding of the Bible as a whole. Many books, one story. Many stories, many circumstances, many experiences, yes, but emerging from them is One God acting faithfully and righteously and in merciful love through the multitudinous circumstances of human life.
If the Bible is just a bunch of stray books mistakenly stitched together by human fiat (for whatever laudable reason), then it's not worth the attention it seems to demand. But the more we read, the more we see the One revealed who makes all things new. The Bible as canon - as one Grand Story - tells us so.
May the mystery captivate us again and again.