I have been a detective, a sleuth, a private eye, and a general ponderer of mysteries and marvels since the age of 7. That’s how old I was when I first slipped Nancy Drew from the shelf of my small-town library. After that, I read every one—and all of Hardy Boys, too. By middle school, I was solving mysteries alongside Sherlock Holmes and Miss Marple. The page-turning thrill of the chase has never left me, and yet, despite my taste in books, I am not an adventurer or a thrill-seeker. I like my mysteries cerebral, polite, page-bound, and neatly tidied up by those two magic words: “The End.”
Each year during the month of December, I divide my fireside reading between a classic mystery novel and an Advent devotional. The novels are populated with missing wills, suspicious butlers, and at least one flaming Christmas pudding. And while the devotionals might have green holly on their covers, they’re focused on a different sort of mystery—the greatest of all: the mystery of Christ.
I have always assumed that these literary and spiritual mysteries are linked only by the quirks of language. What, after all, does a country house with ivy on the banister and poison in the punch have to do with the deep and profound mysteries of God? The novels are mysteries at their most basic level—puzzles with a dash of atmosphere. But the spiritual mysteries encountered in my devotional reading are something altogether different. While the former are enjoyable ciphers, the latter are like deep and inviting waters.
These mysteries are so beyond our human comprehension that we claim them only by revelation.
The infant figure we place in our nativity set represents our living Savior, God in human flesh. This God is one God in three persons. He is a lion and a lamb, alpha and omega. These mysteries are less like puzzles asking to be solved and more like the metaphors of a poem, in which even seemingly contradictory elements are both present and true. These mysteries are so glorious—so beyond our human comprehension—that we claim them only by revelation, as if a great detective had unveiled a truth we could never have found on our own.
Though Christ announced on the cross that “it is finished,” we are still waiting for “The End.” These in-between days of faith are rarely as cozy or easy as curling up with a good book. We believe, but we do not necessarily comprehend the answers we’ve been given. Will we one day? Will we ever arrive at full understanding and grasp those two solid words the end?
Scripture says we have been given “the mystery of the kingdom of God” (Mark 4:11). The end has been achieved and entrusted to us: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known” (1 Corinthians 13:12). With each turn of the planet and Christmas we celebrate, we draw nearer to the happiest ending and the greatest conclusion ever written.
Let us not grow weary. Let us keep turning pages. How very close we are.