I was backing my way out of the office one task at a time for our (big, huge, long, wonderful) Christmas break and wishing departing co-workers a Merry Christmas. I work with some very talented people, and that includes some very smart young guys who are in the middle of their Seminary studies right now. Let me just say that a lot of very deep and probably dense reading is on the holiday list for one of my teammates in particular. There’s nothing wrong with that at all! But as I wished him a great Christmas break, I had a reminder for him–don’t forget to be amazed.
Yes, this is a story you have heard every year since you were 1 year old. Yes, you could recite many of the details by heart. Yes, it may be very familiar to you at this point. But may I challenge you this year to try to experience the Christmas story like you are hearing it for the first time? Or try this–try to see it through the eyes of those who participated in it.
Think about those participants who seem so familiar to you! What would it be like to hear the words Mary heard, announcing to her that she would be the mother of her Lord? What would it feel like to be Joseph and to hear that this coming child is the One who “will save His people from their sins”?
Or think about the angels. They had looked up at His bright glories to sing His praises in heaven; now they would peer down into a dark world to sing the praises of this One Who had become, for a little while, lower than the angels.Can you imagine their amazement? Can you imagine the wonder, the praise, the excitement in their voices?
Shepherds came to look on the Good Shepherd Who would one day lay down His life for the sheep. And, armed with simple faith in what they had heard and seen, they went out to joyfully spread the news of the Savior’s arrival.
Then there is Simeon–an older saint joyfully heralding God’s gift of salvation–and prophesying about its dreadful cost. Don’t forget Anna, a faithful widow who saw the baby Jesus and couldn’t stop telling anyone and everyone about it! Shouldn’t we be rejoicing in God’s salvation? Shouldn’t we, too, keep the cross in view as we celebrate the incarnation? Shouldn’t we be telling everyone we encounter Who this baby really is?
Or try looking at this all through the eyes of the wise men, these mysterious visitors who came further than anyone else to worship the new King. Maybe they kept the traditions of the Jewish prophet Daniel, the greatest wise man Persia had ever known. Maybe that explains how they recognized His star. One thing is for sure–if the gifts they brought are any indication, they knew much more than many give them credit for, because they brought gifts fitting for a Divine King who would one day be buried. Think of the wonder in their hearts, their gratefulness to God for opening their eyes to the truth and guiding them across the vast stretches of desert sands to allow them to welcome into the world the King of Kings! God has opened our eyes too. And if we think these magi lived kind of a long way off from Bethlehem, think about all of us Gentiles 1 ocean and 2 millennia away, whose eyes God has also opened. Shouldn’t we feel the same wonder? Shouldn’t we, too, bring our greatest gifts, our greatest devotion, and our hearts’ true worship to Jesus this Christmas?
May God richly, richly bless you as you head into Christmas. Don’t miss the wonder of the incarnation. Don’t forget to be amazed. We rush through the year and then come to this time when we are confronted with this incredibly amazing, completely life-changing truth: God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should have eternal life. Join the echoes of the angel choirs that sang in the dark skies above Bethlehem 2,000 years ago. Join the shepherds in simple, joyful proclamation. Join the magi bowing down before a little baby who would change the world and buy for them what was perhaps the only thing they could not buy themselves—redemption. Join Simeon in beholding God’s salvation. Join Anna. Join Mary. Before the New Year comes and whisks us into another year of busyness, stop, wonder, worship—and ponder all of these things in your heart.