“The world will never starve for want of wonders, but for want of wonder.” G. K. Chesterton
When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.[ Luke 2:17-20]
It is very early Christmas Eve, 2009. I am sitting in my living room surrounded by three beautiful Christmas trees aglow with lights and decorations. I have deliberately moved my devotions here so I could “feel” more of the beauty of the Christmas season. The predawn darkness creates the necessary backdrop to facilitate the wonder of Christmas. There is a mystery in Christmas that transcends the traditions and commercialism and I don’t want to miss it.
There is a fine line that separates the invisible from the visible, the spiritual from the physical. Although the glory of God is all around and permeates every area of the universe, sin and the cares of life lower our vision. G. K. Chesterton unveils the problem we face: “The world will never starve for wonders, but for want of wonders.” In our foolishness, we are tempted to think that the beauty of this world is more glorious and satisfying than the beauty of the other. So, we stop seeking and pursuing the wonder. We substitute Christmas presents and parties for Christmas mystery and beauty. In the process, we lose the true meaning of Christmas and opportunities for moments with the Living Christ.
We need help to somehow bridge the gap between what is seen and what is not seen. That is why I believe God ordained the Christmas celebration. God uses means to communicate with his people, like, the sending of his Son in a body; and the writing of His Word in a Bible; and the experience of his love in the Church. The gift of the Christmas season is one of God’s means to lift us from the shallowness of this world into the hallowedness of the other. We need Christmas. I need Christmas.
Have you noticed that there seems to be something in the air at Christmas that touches the deeper part of our being? The memories and the traditions contribute to that sense, but I think there is something much more profound going on. As I sit here, I remember a Christmas Eve 22 years ago. It was the day my father died. It was one Christmas I will never forget. It changed my life. It was both a painful time and a holy time. The loss of my dad and hero caused me to look beyond the experience of grief to find grace. Christmas presents and parties could not help me that Christmas.
Right now, I have dear friends who are grieving over the death of a precious son, at Christmas. I have other friends who are in a fight for their lives with the deadly curse called cancer, at Christmas. Others are struggling over marriages gone sour and love betrayed, at Christmas. Still, others are enduring great pressure because of financial problems, at Christmas. In the midst of those kinds of painful pressures, Christmas presents and parties are passé and peripheral. We need to experience the wonder of Christmas.
A few years ago I sat under a South African sky. I was hundreds of miles away from the lights of any city. My hosts prepared a nighttime barbecue for me. As we sat there in the cool of the night, my eyes turned upward and I saw one of the most incredible and awesome sights I have ever witnessed. It was a mass of lights, stars filling the sky. The whiteness dominated the darkness. I had no idea those stars were there. It was a wonder-full experience. It took the blackness of an African night to allow me to see the incredible glory and majesty of our God’s handiwork.
That was one of those rare moments when I was able to see beyond and wonder. We have Christmases like that. At a time when we expect to enjoy family and the traditions we have always cherished, we are suddenly enveloped with darkness instead. We suffer the death of a loved one; a marriage gone sour; an unexpected doctor’s report. It is that kind of Christmas that can change our lives forever if we will look up.
Two Christmas carols will help illustrate what I am trying to convey. The first is the “O Little Town of Bethlehem.” One line goes like this: “Yet in thy darkness shineth the everlasting light; the hopes and fears of all the years are met in thee tonight.” In the midst of a dark night at an insignificant place, God broke through to reveal his glory. All of our most cherished hopes and all of our greatest fears were dealt with in the coming of the baby Jesus, Son of God. Another wonderful reality existed that we never could have imagined. In Jesus, dashed hopes were revived and devastating fears died.
The second carol is “I Wonder as I Wonder.” One of its strains goes like this:
I wonder as I wander out under the sky
How Jesus the Saviour did come for to die
For poor on’ry people like you and like I;
I wonder as I wander out under the sky
Christmas helps us to “see” what is not seen. It helps us “wonder as we wander.” Christmas speaks of a wonder-full reality that exists beyond this painful world where death, cancer and pressures assail. That world is wonder-full in that It speaks of a God who sent His Son, Jesus, the Savior of the world, to die for “poor on’ry” people like you and like I” It speaks of a God who has all things under his control. It speaks to us of a God who comes to us to suffer with us. It speaks of a God who will someday turn all of our suffering into joy.
The miracle of Christmas is meant to lift up our hearts in faith to a world that is not only wonderful but eternal. That is what Paul was doing when he wrote, “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” [2 Cor 4:18]The darkness of death and grief are not the ultimate reality. Light has broken into our world in the coming of Jesus Christ. The hopes and the fears of all the years are met in him.
Sometimes, in the sovereignty of his will, God leads us through a backdrop of darkness. But, He always has a glorious purpose. He wants us to wonder and worship at the awesome glory of his grace. My prayer for you is that God will lift the eyes of your heart so that you may see our wonderful Savior who dispels all darkness. He is still loving, still ruling, and still shining in the darkest of nights. Look up!
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