Oh Star of wonder, star of night
Star with royal beauty bright
Westward leading, still proceeding
Guide us to thy Perfect Light*
I just read a web site discussing whether or not the Christmas star was literal or figurative or some other sort of astronomical event.** I used to find that sort of discussion interesting but now I think of it about as often as I think about Oprah, which is somewhere between ‘never’ and ‘occasionally by accident’. Like Oprah, the star doesn’t matter much to me now. Unlike Oprah, I’m just happy to wonder about it.
Christmas is a week away. As a child, this was traditionally the longest week of the year. Each day of December had already been carefully and patiently checked off the calendar, each of them feeling like their own eternity, but the last week was in a tedious category of its own.
Do you remember how you felt about Christmas when you were a child? Making a Christmas list or writing a letter to postal code HOH OHO? (On a side note, we used to live next door to Santa Claus – the postal worker who managed the letters that had been addressed to Santa. True story. I KNOW!) Do you remember leaving milk and cookies for Santa and a carrot for Rudolph? And the mystery of the empty glass and plate the next morning? Do you remember listening sleeplessly from your bed, wondering if almost any sound might be him? How about the wide-eyed excitement of Christmas morning? Do you remember? For me as a child, Christmas really was more than gifts, it had an additional element of magic. It was awe-inspiring and full of wonder.
As adults we easily lose that magic. We become busy Santas and the magic of Christmas erodes to something stressful, edited, functional. As Christians we know the story of Jesus’ birth inside and out. We have read it and told it and heard it so often that it begins to lose its shine and newness. We speak of it in terms of hard reality and ministers and priests prospect for ways to make it into three points and an illustration. Matthew 1 and Luke 2 have all the wonder squeezed out as we fumble to make them more palatable.
Faith and wonder are closely related, so I’m challenging you to stop hearing the same tired story and to begin to listen to a magical tale with the reborn wonder of a child. Born in a crafty manger. Angels appearing to dirty shepherds in windy fields. An angel choir lighting up the night sky. Wealthy astrologers interpreting ancient texts and following a mysterious star. Jealous and deadly political maneuvers by the powers. The murderous rage of evil and the selfless purity of good. The virgin birth. A baby who is about to change the world. A God who inserts himself into time and space lovingly pulls the strings and the tale opens before us. Read the Magnificat in Luke 1 and hear the wonder in Mary’s voice as the story dawns on her.
The biography of Jesus continued to be a story of wonder. “As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.” (Mark 9:15) In the gospels it is evident that the people who followed Jesus were people of wonder who were willing to believe and that those who opposed him were small-minded and unwilling.
But isn’t that how we should think about the things God does? A sense of the wideness and wildness of deity. This Christmas the story of Jesus’ first coming has held more wonder for me than it has for years and as a result, Advent has been an almost daily inspiration.
I pray more wonder into your Christmas celebration. The God of wonder.
1 My heart pounds as I think of this.
It trembles within me.
2 Listen carefully to the thunder of God’s voice
as it rolls from his mouth.
3 It rolls across the heavens,
and his lightning flashes in every direction.
4 Then comes the roaring of the thunder”
the tremendous voice of his majesty.
He does not restrain it when he speaks.
5 God’s voice is glorious in the thunder.
We can’t even imagine the greatness of his power.
6 “He directs the snow to fall on the earth
and tells the rain to pour down.
7 Then everyone stops working
so they can watch his power.
8 The wild animals take cover
and stay inside their dens.
9 The stormy wind comes from its chamber,
and the driving winds bring the cold.
10 God’s breath sends the ice,
freezing wide expanses of water.
11 He loads the clouds with moisture,
and they flash with his lightning.
12 The clouds churn about at his direction.
They do whatever he commands throughout the earth.
13 He makes these things happen either to punish people
or to show his unfailing love.
14 “Pay attention to this, Job.
Stop and consider the wonderful miracles of God!
15 Do you know how God controls the storm
and causes the lightning to flash from his clouds?
16 Do you understand how he moves the clouds
with wonderful perfection and skill?
17 When you are sweltering in your clothes
and the south wind dies down and everything is still,
18 he makes the skies reflect the heat like a bronze mirror.
Can you do that?
19 “So teach the rest of us what to say to God.
We are too ignorant to make our own arguments.
20 Should God be notified that I want to speak?
Can people even speak when they are confused?
21 We cannot look at the sun,
for it shines brightly in the sky
when the wind clears away the clouds.
22 So also, golden splendor comes from the mountain of God.
He is clothed in dazzling splendor.
23 We cannot imagine the power of the Almighty;
but even though he is just and righteous,
he does not destroy us.
24 No wonder people everywhere fear him.
All who are wise show him reverence.”
Job 37 (NLT)
* We Three Kings of Orient Are, John Henry Hopkins