My eleven year-old has to write a mystery story for school. The past few days he’s been trying to decide what to write about. Several family members have been making suggestions. We’d like to think they’re helpful ideas, but he does not concur. “Mom!,” he says, “That’s too simple, too short, too obvious, too easy to figure out!” I try to argue that I’m just giving him the bare bones of an idea: he can stir in suspense, tell it well and fashion it into an intriguing tale, but my son didn’t like any of the options we gave him.
It’s not a great mystery if you can easily perceive how it will unfold, if each step is painfully predictable.
This week we celebrate Epiphany, where light shines into darkness, exciting mysteries are revealed, and great gifts are received.
Our Christmas tree is still up, the Story ringing in my ears.
Angels spoke to Elizabeth, to Mary, to Joseph, and to a bunch of lowly shepherds, reminding us that God speaks not only to highly favoured “special” people, but also to the ordinary, the outcasts, the kind of people who care for smelly sheep.
God shone the light of a special star to tell his good news Story to wise men: magicians from the East, reminding us that God invites foreigners, outsiders (even those who live contrary to God’s law), to behold, to participate, to give, to receive, to be transformed, to travel along a different road.
God tells an exciting Story, and he doesn’t just tell it well: in a surprising plot twist, he participates in a way none of us would have imagined! God the King is born in an ordinary stable with smelly animals. He chooses to make his home among us and invite us outsiders into his royal family.
The time was right. The light shone out into the darkness. The mystery began to unfold.
One of my favourite parts of the Story is when the newborn Jesus is presented in the Temple. Simeon and Anna were given the gift of meeting him, and of revelation: they were told who Jesus was, and given the opportunity to tell the good news to others (Luke 2). Simeon proclaims that Jesus is a light of revelation for outsiders and glory for God’s people – a verse that was very meaningful to me as a young Christian years ago, and continues to remind me that God welcomes and includes outsiders like me.
Epiphany: I am written into the Story. Jesus’ Story is big enough to welcome and include us all, and this is a great gift of Good News!
My eleven year-old is still working on his mystery story: he’s decided to just start out with a setting and some characters, and see where the story goes. I’m curious to see how it will end!