Summary: Israel, Rome, and we all think we have God figured out. God has in Christ done so much more; and when it looks as though the wrappings must be thrown away, there is more yet.

With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

Every child ought to have at least one mystery package. At least one package whose contents cannot be figured out. Some things are hard to conceal; there’s not much you can do to disguise a football, and even less you can do to hide a bicycle. But there ought to be under every Christmas tree at least one mystery package, at least one thing that the recipient cannot figure out ahead of time. Most children find it just about impossible to wait for Christmas morning, and, in addition to that constant cajoling about an ever-earlier unwrapping time, they will snoop around the house, poke around under the tree, shake, rattle, and roll the packages, all to see if they can find out what’s they’re getting.

But I have news for the children this evening. I have news for you. We’re on to you! Moms and dads know what you are doing! And we do have a plan, a plan to go beyond all your little attempts to figure out what you’re getting. It’s called the mystery package.

When my children were young, they did what I suspect a lot of children do. They dug around in closets and attics, in those out-of-the-way places in the house, where their mother had carefully tucked away the Christmas accumulation. Now she did make it a little challenging; not only did she put things in out-of-the-way places, she also wrapped them almost as soon as she bought them. She would wrap Bryan’s and Karen’s gifts and would just pencil, very lightly, in one corner, the initials “B” or “K”, until she could tag them properly. Well, B and K not only found the packages; and not only found out the B and K system, but also mastered the art of carefully opening one end or one corner of the package, so that they could see whether we had been good Santas. By the way, make no mistake, in our commercial culture, it is not only that Santa makes a list and checks it twice, trying to record who’s naughty and nice; it is also the consumers of Santa’s services who give him a performance evaluation at the end of the delivery season! So, anyway, the game went on: we would get and wrap and mark packages; Bryan and Karen would sniff them out, semi-unwrap them in order to find out what was coming, and then rewrap them. On Christmas morning, everything would go as scripted – handing out gifts, pretending surprise, joy and glee all around.

But – ah, we parents are smarter than you think – but, usually we had managed to keep back, in ultra-secret hiding, at least one mystery package for each child. At least one very special gift. Because, you see, we were on to you! We knew you snooped. We knew your curiosity overcame you. We knew you had opened and reclosed those packages; you cannot reposition Scotch tape without leaving a clue! We knew! We went along with the game! But we kept something back, for a real surprise. We kept a mystery package, the really good, special gift, so that we could, indeed, inspire joy and delight in your child souls on Christmas morning. Oh, you see, we didn’t get to be parents by being idiots, now, did we? A mystery package, to be opened and discovered only at the right time, on Christmas morning.

God has kept back a mystery package. We thought we knew all there was to know about God. We thought we had Him figured out. But God has kept back a mystery package, to be opened when the timing is right.

With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

Israel’s elite thought they had figured God out. After all, Israel was God’s child, chosen of Him centuries earlier. Israel had unwrapped the package of liberation, and had been freed from slavery in Egypt. Israel had unwrapped the package of conquest, and had been given the land of Canaan. Israel had unwrapped the package of nationhood, and had been given a line of kings, just like all the other nations. And even when Israel’s and Judah’s toys got broken, and they were sent into exile, even then they thought they had God’s gifts figured out, because He brought them back. He fixed it. He made it work again. Israel’s elite – the priests, the Pharisees, the top people – they thought they had all they were going to get. But God had held back a mystery package for Israel.

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