Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Wonder of Christmas

I can remember as a young boy waking early on Christmas morning running out to the family room with great wonder at what was there under the tree! For some, this time of year still brings about a sense of wonder and awe. But many of us, in the midst of all the hustle and hype of the holidays have lost the wonder that ought to come when we are reminded of the true meaning of Christmas. Recently I was reading through the passages in Scripture that we often call "the Christmas story." I was amazed that during the very first Christmas there was a sense of wonder and awe. Then I was was challenged, "Shouldn't I still have the same sense of wonder and awe when I consider all that God did in sending His Son into this world, not to condemn us but that through Him we might be save?" Let's consider some of those who were in wonder and awe on that first Christmas. As we consider these thoughts let's take in the words of the prophet Isaiah, "Pause and wonder" (Is. 29:9).

In Luke 1:18 we read of Zechariah (John the baptists father) who wondered how he and his wife could give birth to the forerunner of the Messiah. Image how this man who was well advanced in years would have felt! At first wonder in the sense of doubt, "how can this be?" But as you read more of Zechariah's experience we see that this wonder of doubt becomes a wonder of worship! Latter on in chapter one we hear his song of praise and it filled no longer with the wonder of doubt, but it display a heart that is filled with the wonder and awe of worship! He speaks :
  • of a redeeming God (1:68)
  • of the the strength of that God (1:69)
  • of the Sovereignty of such a God (1:70)
  • of the Salvation and deliverance by His God (1:71)
  • of the Mercy of God (1:72)
  • of the fact that this is a covenant keeping God (1:72)
  • and that his God is Holy and Righteous (1:75)

In Luke 1:34 we read that Mary wondered how it would be possible for a virgin to give birth to a baby. Mary's wonder here isn't so a question of doubt as much as it was an expression of faith, even though so small. She believed the promise, but she did not understand the performance. How could a virgin have a child? Gabriel explains that this would be a miracle, the work of the Holy Spirit of God. He goes on to tell her that the baby would be a "holy" (1:35). Then when see that true wonder brings about a heart that is surrendered to the will of God (1:38) and in her song we see that wonder causes her to praise Him for the promises as if they were already fulfilled. So we see her faith. Then we see a heart full of wonder is full of joy (1:47). She was in awe of the greatness and holiness of her God as a result of her wonder (1:49). Her whole experience displays a heart that is overflowing with love for her God.

In Matthew 1:18:25 we see Joseph wondering why he and Mary had been chosen by God to be the parents of the Messiah. Later we see Mary pondering everything in her heart (Luke 2:19, 51). Both Joseph and Mary marvel at what devout Simeon says to them in Luke 2:25-35.

Think of the shepherds in the fields outside Bethlehem keeping watch over their flocks when the dark night was light up by the presence of angel proclaiming the Savior's birth. I notice several things here that is worth pointing out. First, what kind of shepherds were they? We are told that they were watching shepherds (2:8). They had been faithful with what they had been given. Shepherds were not held in such high esteem in that day, yet heavens secrets concerning the arrival of the Savior was given to them. Why? Perhaps Psalm 25:14 has the answer, "The secrets of the LORD are with those that fear Him" or "are in awe of Him." Next thing I notice about these shepherds is that they are wondering shepherds (2:9-10). The type of wonder here was one of fear but notice what the angels said, "Fear not!" This is one of the great themes of the Christmas story (Luke 1:13, 30, 74, Matthew 1:20). The good tidings or the good news is full of great joy and cast out fear! These shepherds were also willing shepherds (2:15-16), they responded in faith! They didn't say "let's go see if these things happened." They said, "let's go see these things that have happened." They were also witnessing shepherds (2:17-18). They didn't keep it to themselves, they told every one they saw and people marveled at what they shared! The last thing we see about these shepherds is that they became worshipping shepherds (2:19-20).

What Hinders Our Wonder
In each of these scripture we see that there was a cause an affect that brought about wonder. Wonder is not a fuzzy feeling. If we look for that were missing the point. Wonder comes from being occupied with the real reason for the season! Have you ever notice so many manger scenes have the figures facing out so we can see them. I heard of a little girl who moved the figures in a manger scene all facing in, when asked why she said, "They need to be looking at Jesus, not at us!" She got it! This is the main reason we loose our wonder! We're too busy being occupied with other things.

Another factor that affects our wonder is that we get way too busy this time of year! We need to "pause and wonder" (Is. 29:9). We need to "be still" to appreciate and know Who is God (Ps. 40:10). It has often been said that if we don't come apart a rest, we'll just come apart! I think there is a lot of true to that, especially this time of year.

May we enjoy this time of year with friends and family, but let's not forget to pause and wonder. Let our wonder lead to worship Him who not only came as a baby and was laid in a manger. But remember why He came to bring glory to God through His life and His death. Pause and wonder why that one who laid in a manger, grew up and as a man hung on the cross paying the price and the penalty for my sins and yours. He was buried and rose again, ascend back to Heaven and is coming back for us! Pause and wonder at the plan of salvation. When you pause and wonder it will lead you to praise and worship!

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