Posts Tagged With: Christmas

Opening up to Wonder

IMG_1118Wonder.  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?

Categories: Journey Living | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

A Better Tabernacle

Where is God’s tabernacle today?

While the Israelites were in the wilderness, God wanted to have a place to be in the center of his people.  So, in addition to detailing how they were to live, he provided instructions about creating a tent where he would dwell – from the dimensions of the structure to the colors of the decorative thread.  Bezalel, who God had filled with his Spirit and skill, led many artisans to create this tent and its accompanying furnishings.  This was a holy, sacred place.  When it was finished, and Moses had made sure it was set up as God dictated, the Glory of the Lord entered.  Never before, since sin had entered the world, had God been so present in the midst of his people.

It was easy to see this was a holy place.  Set up in the center of all the other tents, it had special rules surrounding it.  Not just anyone could enter, especially the place where God resided, the Holy of Holies.  For the average Israelite, God remained distant.  All they saw were the structure of the tent, the rituals, and the priests.  It was beautiful, but inaccessible.  Eventually God became lost for the people, locked away.  They worshiped the external forms instead of the God to whom the forms were pointing.

The celebration of Christmas has taken a similar turn. The ideal image is beautiful – if you can get it.   If you want to have a good Christmas you better have a properly decorated tree; a well-dressed, happy family around the dinner table; and the latest toys and clothes for gifts.  This is when the Christmas spirit will come and fill your lives – or at least is evidence of it.

However, what happens if your Christmas is spent in the hospital, or with a father who is dying, or with your family on the street?  What if you are in a barracks a world away from your family or you have no money for any gifts?  Where is Christmas?  Only priests could enter God’s presence – and it seems that only the privileged people today can have the full Christmas experience today.  The trappings of the first tabernacle that were to provide a way to God eventually became a barrier to really knowing him; and the trappings of Christmas can be a barrier to people knowing God today.

Fortunately, another tabernacle entered the picture just over 2,000 years ago.  This time God did not require a structure built by human hands.  Human flesh became his tent, his tabernacle.  God’s glory, the same glory that filled the tent in the desert, now filled an infant in a manger.  An ordinary birth.  Later on this living tabernacle moved among people, and not always in the best places.

If we really want to celebrate Christmas, it’s not about making a winter wonderland, but going into the places where people’s lives are torn just as this infant, Jesus, would do. Jesus enters the hospital and sits by the bed and stands with the soldier away from home.  Amazingly we don’t have to go to this tabernacle.  He comes to us and we are changed.

Categories: God's Story | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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