Uzzah reached out and took hold of the ark of God, because the oxen stumbled … and he died there beside the ark of God. David was afraid of the Lord that day, and he was not willing to take the ark of the Lord to be with him in the City of David. – 2 Samuel 6:6-10 (NRSV, abridged)
Pregnancy and gestation are big enough mysteries for most people to be getting on with, but to Christians in Advent are also given: incarnation … virgin conception and birth … angelic messengers … signs in the sky … the savior of the world being born Jewish and poor, a very long time ago, a very long way away.
Mishandling of these mysteries can deal death. Theology that despises bodies, abhors sex, prizes “purity.” Music and preaching that celebrates the arrival of Jesus at the expense of his Jewish siblings. Belief that stares at the skies while ignoring those who live below them.
Mysteries so great and terrible are enough to paralyze you, like David with the ark. Not wanting to hurt anyone—least of all ourselves—we leave them where they lie. Afraid to draw close with incisive language or bold claims or declarative sentences that might one day be used against us, we take refuge in platitude and passive voice. In so doing we, like David, risk foregoing the power for good that drawing near to the mysteries might provide us.
This Christmas, ask yourself: what mysteries, what truths, what statements and questions and doctrines and ideas, have I been shrinking from? What’s the danger in drawing close to them; what’s the danger in staying away?
God gave them to us to handle; what will happen if we leave them where they lie?
Let me approach your mysteries, O God, as I approach you: with both boldness and care. Amen.
Quinn G. Caldwell is a father, husband, homesteader and preacher living in rural upstate New York. His most recent book is a series of daily reflections for Advent and Christmas called All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas. Learn more about it and find him on Facebook at Quinn G. Caldwell.