09 December, 2012

Wonder of Christmas

The line to visit with Santa was long.  It stretched and curved and jigged and jagged all the while children ran to and fro, moms stressed, babies cried…it’s Christmas.  I looked at some of the children closest to Santa.  Some were too old to still really believe in Santa Claus, some too young to even know their whereabouts but there was one.  One little girl in her beautifully smocked Christmas dress stood gazing at Santa.  She held her mama’s hand and had her stuffed animal firmly grasped in the other.  Her eyes held wonder, perhaps a little fear but definitely intrigue, yes-even mystery.  She believed.  Her eyes held wonder.

I walked away from that scene with a smile.  How precious!  Additionally, I was visiting with a friend last night and she shared that her grand daughter would be with them on Christmas morning.  I found myself thinking, “Oh, how wonderful that you’ll get to experience Christmas morning with her and through her eyes.  It will be an exciting morning.  One where you wake up early and run to the tree, paper is flying, boxes trampled in the excitement.  The mysterious presents that have long waited are finally opened.  The joy and wonder of Christmas being revealed.”

After these two experiences I begin to ponder whether or not I'd lost the gift of wonder.  Michael Yaconelli describes wonder in his book, Dangerous Wonder, "We have lost the gleam in our eye.  Jesus [birth] no longer chases us in the rugged terrain of our souls.  We have forgotten what it is like to stand speechless in the presence of Jesus, hearts beating wildly, staggered and stunned by what God is doing in our world.  Do not give up.  Dangerous wonder is still possible for us all."

I’m 54 years old and I want my eyes to behold mystery and wonder this Christmas.  I want the mystery of God being born as a Baby to confuse, amaze and bring me to my knees.  How is it possible that a majestic God could or would force Himself from heaven to come to a painful place called Earth and squeeze Himself into the skin and frame of a baby?  If that’s not enough of a mystery add to it that He came for me and you.  I really can’t comprehend or understand such a God.

Perhaps it’s only in realizing His magnificence that we can fully begin to understand the lowly birth into a manger.  Read these words:
At this my heart pounds and leaps from its place. Listen! Listen to the roar of his voice, to the rumbling that comes from his mouth.
He unleashes his lightning beneath the whole heaven 
and sends it to the ends of the earth.
After that comes the sound of his roar; he thunders with his majestic voice.
When his voice resounds, he holds nothing back. God’s voice thunders in marvelous ways; he does great things beyond our understanding.
He says to the snow, ‘Fall on the earth, and to the rain shower, ‘Be a mighty downpour.
So that everyone he has made may know his work, he stops all people from their labor.
The breath of God produces ice,
and the broad waters become frozen.
He loads the clouds with moisture; he scatters his lightning through them.
At his direction they swirl around, 
over the face of the whole earth
 to do whatever he commands them.  Do you know how God controls the clouds
 and makes his lightning flash? Do you know how the clouds hang poised, those wonders of him who has perfect knowledge? 
Out of the north he comes in golden splendor; God comes in awesome majesty. The Almighty is beyond our reach and exalted in power…Job 37 (selected verses)
The God Job is describing in these words is the same God we celebrate this Christmas.  I challenge you to re-read this scripture about the nature of God.  Read it again today, tomorrow, the next day and the day after…

The mystery is that this all knowing, all wise, all loving, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Creator, Redeemer was born to us this Christmas.  In all His glory He was born to touch us and to let us touch Him.

What a wonder...What a mystery


From Scott Elliff's Blog


Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. (I John 4:8)
When I was a young boy, my brothers and I had a vintage collection of Hardy Boys mystery books. I was a big fan, and I suppose I took to Frank and Joe Hardy’s adventures because I imagined that they were just regular kids like my brothers and I and all the other kids on our block back in the 50s and 60s, except for the fact they were always in some sort of thrilling situation that required their skillful sleuthing.
With titles such as “The Clock Ticked,” “The Mystery of Cabin Island,” and “The Clue of the Broken Blade,” Hardy Boys mysteries were pretty formulaic. Each chapter finished with a little cliffhanger that made you want to read the next, building to a somewhat surprising resolution tied up neatly by all the clues the boys had discovered and deciphered, followed by a happy ending that made you want to read the next installment.
The mysteries that baffle us in real life are not so easily resolved. “What is the meaning of my life,” “Why did this happen to me,” and “Why did I do to deserve this?” are mysteries many struggle to solve their whole lives through. Even with the most obvious of clues, the big mysteries of life are not answered as neatly as the Hardy Boys found.
One of the big mysteries—perhaps the biggest mystery of all—is the mysterious nature of God. Throughout my adult life, I have asked the same essential spiritual questions others have through the ages: “Who am I…who is God…and who am I in relation to God?” Throughout this journey, I have felt at times that I have “the answer,” only to be awakened to some new understanding of myself or the nature of God that shakes my certainty…and then I’m back to looking for clues to solve the mystery.
Scripture certainly provides many clues. Who is God? Well, John’s first letter plainly tells us that “God is love,” and that those who do not love do not know God. And yet why do many who profess to know God show such contempt for others who are different from themselves? Why do we separate ourselves into the spiritual “in” and “out” groups because someone prays differently, acts differently, votes differently…does anything differently than the way we believe they “should?”
I believe the scripture, “God is love.” My belief in that scripture and what it says about the nature of God is steadfast, yet my understandinghas broadened through my lifetime based on my experiences, my study, and my encounters with others.
The unfolding chapters of my life have led me to an understanding I have today, one that may make some who read uncomfortable: that I am a Christ-follower by choice because I’ve come to know that the humanity of Christ helps me to understand the divinity and mystery of God.
But I also am a Christ-follower by accident of birth because that is the tradition of my mother and father, and their parents before them, and the community into which I was born. Had my circumstances been different, would I have come to know God through Christ? And am I called to love anyone less whose circumstances led them down a different path…a path with as many twists, turns, and answers that lead to more questions as I have had?
Our world is a divided place. Lines are drawn and have been drawn in the sands of time over the ages, often in the name of God, as simple-minded human beings have understood God to be. Sometimes, people settle into one “answer to the mystery,” and—enjoying the comfort that comes with certainty—never allow themselves to consider that “God is love” is a bigger and more complex idea than they had ever imagined! Instead, they neatly resolve the mystery of God like a good Hardy Boys novel—satisfying, but perhaps best meant for a child.
I, for one, don’t want a “Hardy Boys” faith. I want my faith to grow as I grow. I want to fully understand who God intends for me to be, and who I am in relationship to God, who is love…a God who is continually being revealed in ways both plain and mysterious...through relationships, tragedies, joys, sorrows, music, art, compassion, the environment…and through one of the most mysterious choices God has made: to be revealed as a baby in a cattle stall.
How mysterious that the unimaginable, incomprehensible God we seek to understand would show up in the form of one so vulnerable, so utterly dependent on love, pure and simple, to survive!
Then again, maybe not so mysterious after all…
Prayer for Today: God, I do not completely understand all that you are, or all that you would have me to be. But I do know that you are love, and that I am to love others if I am to know you. Help me today to be more prone to love than to judge, to reach out rather than to exclude, and to show the love of Christ to the world today in all I say and do.

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