The Mystery in Our Midst

“Hark the Herald Angels Sing” is one of my favorite Christmas carols, so I sing it with gusto. Sometimes my “gusto” is a little overpowering. I noticed this on Christmas Eve when I saw the gentleman sitting ahead of me sticking his finger in his right ear! I just can’t help myself. The lyrics of this carol resonate with me, especially these lines: “Hail the incarnate deity / Pleased as man with men to dwell / Jesus, our Emmanuel.”

“Emmanuel” – God with us – speaks volumes about the the blessing of Jesus’s birth, with “incarnate deity” affirming his status as fully God and fully man. “Pleased as man with men to dwell” shows the willingness, the self-emptying nature of the Son who was “pleased” to take on our frail flesh so that we might participate in the love relationship that is integral to the Triune God. These short verses from a well-known hymn reveal the heart of the Divine toward humanity.

But they don’t reveal everything. And I don’t know about you, but I like to know EVERYTHING. I like to see ten miles down the road; I like to have a plan; I like to be prepared. The story of Emmanuel doesn’t tell us everything. Like why tragedy happens in our world and innocent people suffer. Like how we are supposed to go on when we lose someone or something we love and value. Like when we will see some evidence of God’s power or healing in a world that often seems hell-bent on self-destructing.

It’s hard to live with not knowing, and our human nature makes us seek certainty and permanence, only to realize that nothing in this world is certain or permanent. Nothing, except Emmanuel, the one who was pleased to live in the midst of our suffering. Somehow we must come to terms with the mystery of God never being fully revealed, though Jesus himself says that “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (NIV, John 14:9). Author Peter Rollins says, “The point is not that the mystery of God is dissipated in the Incarnation, but that this mystery is brought into the heart of the world. The mystery is in our midst. The unknowing is here dwelling among us” (The Idolatry of God: Breaking Our Addiction to Certainty and Satisfaction).

While we can’t see ten miles down the road and we can’t have a plan or be prepared for everything, we do know that within this mystery and unknowing is a Heart that is for us, one that is present in our tragedies and unbearable losses and one that is working out healing despite the world’s chaos in ways we could never fathom. That’s the heart I sing about when I sing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” That’s why I must belt it out with gusto (sorry, fellow singers around me!). News of the loving Mystery dwelling with us is too good not to share loudly.

~by Nan Kuhlman

Youtube video courtesy of JakeSD19

3 comments so far

  1. Dyann Clark on

    Thanks for another great post, Nan.
    Also, got excited over the quote by Pete Rollins. I’m about to read that book!

    • Nan Kuhlman on

      Hi Dyann, I just finished the book by Rollins and enjoyed it thoroughly! You might be interested to hear him on Rob Bell’s podcast (The Robcast), episodes 111-114. They’re called Pete Rollins on God (part 1, 2, etc.). I’ve listened to them a number of times and find something new every time! Thanks for taking time to comment, Nan

  2. Dyann on

    Hey Nan,
    I did hear him on The Robcast – in fact, that was the first time I had heard of him and I really liked what I heard. Glad to hear that you enjoyed the book. I’m looking forward to it but I may have to “watch a few cute cat videos” when I finish!!


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