Wonder. Is this a dying concept in our world today? Looking at myself, I don’t want to wonder – I want to know. I want to be in control and not be caught off guard by the appearance of something miraculous, something I may not understand. No one can put something over on you if can see behind the curtain. So true wonder lies dormant.
Yet, during the Christmas season, we are asked to believe in wonder. Isaiah prophesied that the coming messiah would have the name – wonderful. The One people would look at in awe, as miraculous. Whether from the Christian story – a virgin birth, angels, God becoming human – or from the secular world – Santa Claus, children opening gifts, the Nutcracker ballet – elements of wonder are all around this time of year.
In many ways I protect myself from wonder during Christmas – at least I have for many years. I have kept myself distant from this uncertainty so I wouldn’t be disappointed once again. When I have opened myself up to wonder-filled expectations for the season, they always seemed to crash – appendicitis, loneliness, parents’ cancer treatments. But maybe the problem hasn’t been in the wonder itself, but in my expectations of the wonder needing to take place in the world I desire.
This year I decided to step out into wonder. First I watched. The excitement my nieces had at seeing gifts under the tree was contagious and I started to look forward to giving and receiving them. The awe that international students expressed at the Cincinnati Zoo’s Festival of Lights drew me in. Usually I just want get to the next exhibit. But they stopped – took pictures with the snowman, walked through the candy cane forest, and watched the dancing lights on the lake.
Slowly I started to see wonder in more places.
- Children looking at a display of moving elves.
- Lighted Advent candles
- Friends sharing a Christmas concert
- A marathon shopping experience
- Christmas lights on neighborhood homes
- Lyrics of carols – old and new
- Children laughing at puppet play
My natural instinct throughout the past weeks was to put up a barrier and watch from a cynical stance. However, I soon realized that in a posture of wonder I am not wrapped up and fearful – having to know everything and figure out what’s behind it. Instead I can be present with others. As the angels come and declare fear not – they are asking us to be open, and not hide in the small, safe spaces we create for ourselves. Fear not, come and wonder at God, at the Word he has to share. There is a freedom in wonder. An opening of creativity. An opening to God.
I want to continue to stand in awe at creation – and in the miracle of the people around me. I want to relish the Christmas stories – especially the coming of God to earth. Really – this is something to insight awe. With each ‘wow’ I sense a deeper peace. Not because everything is going how I want, but because I’m finally opening up to the larger reality, good around me – the God of Wonder.
Where have you seen Christmas wonder over the past weeks?