I have a certain fondness for old TV shows. I love the way they feel familiar, the way they told great stories without huge budgets and special-effects, and I sort of love that I’m getting to the age where they all feel new again because I can’t remember how they ended.
Columbo has always been a favorite. Do you remember Peter Faulk’s shabby detective with his trademark cigar and raincoat? The character was unforgettable, but what really made Columbo stand out was the structure of the stories. Each episode began with the murder. As the viewers, we knew exactly whodunit and how. The thrill of the show was watching Columbo put the pieces together and solve the mystery for himself. During the whole episode we would be wondering, “What clues will he find that will give the murderer away?”
Columbo came to mind the other day as I was starting to think about Christmas. I find myself being envious of the Old Testament prophets and those who lived at the time of Christ’s birth. To them, it was all about the mystery. Isaiah had prophesied a virgin giving birth, Micah had told where it would happen, and Daniel had narrowed down the time. They lived in a time when they had to piece the puzzle together to arrive at the identity of the child. But what was mystery for them is history for us. Where is the joy of discovery in a 2000-year-old story?
I couldn’t help noticing something I hadn’t seen before. You see, the Christmas story isn’t just about something that happened 2000 years ago. It’s about my own story of discovery. Daniel’s timing reminds us that, at just the right time God’s grace entered my life to change me, to redeem me from my sin (Galatians 4:4-5). Micah’s prophecy of his humble birth reminds me that no matter how small or insignificant I feel, I have God’s attention (Romans 8:31). And Isaiah’s promise of a miraculous birth lets me know that through his power I have been born again (John 3:3).
Oh, and one more thing, The story of the Advent, of God entering this world through the incarnation of His Son, continues to be played out in the homes and hearts of all of those who call on his name. And in every life, we continue to live out “this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27).”
That hope is the greatest mystery you will ever solve.