The Return of Wonder

I have to say, it wore off a long time ago.

The adrenaline rush of Christmas, that is. I don’t get the thrill of anticipation that I used to get on Christmas Eve as a child, barely able to sleep as I wondered what would show up under the tree the following morning. Even long after I surrendered the Santa Claus mythology, I still continued to eagerly await the gifts that I knew would materialize in various wrappings the next morning.

As an adult, though, the excitement and wonder of it disappeared years ago.

We still put up trees. I’m still around people I love (this is my first Christmas with my new in-laws, as well as my first New England Christmas…very different this year). But the wonder is gone. Not so much the happiness, because I understand now that what brings that happiness has changed. It’s no longer about receiving gifts, it’s about other things. The happiness has remained, but not the wonder.

Until tonight.

Tonight, I was at a Christmas Eve service singing Silent Night by candlelight. Much more traditional service than I’m used to, and not altogether my thing, but I enjoy new experiences. If you’ve visited here very often, you know that I shy away from tradition altogether, so hymns and traditional Christmas carols really aren’t my thing. But when I end up somewhere singing them, I like to ponder the words, to make it an act of worship instead of an act of repitition. So I was focusing on the words to the song tonight, and I couldn’t help but to wonder at what that night must have been like.

If you permit yourself a real picture of what must have happened instead of the sanitized and commercialized manger scene that dominates our Christian pop culture, and imagine a teenage mother giving natural birth to a child in a stable that smelled like crap, it sort of boggles the mind. See, there’s no historical argument that Jesus was a real person. But if you choose to accept that He was God, then the fact that God would allow Himself to arrive in such un-assuming circumstances, a birth unknown to the world and even the town around Him, you can’t help but wonder.

A town full of people blissfully unaware that the God who created them had suddenly shown up in a rank and stinking stable without immediate fanfare or proclamation. As a writer, I must appreciate the irony.

Even aside from why He came, the fact that He came amazes me. And therein lies the spirit of tonight and tomorrow, the “spirit of Christmas,” if such a trite expression must be used.

Therein lies the peace, the reason for the celebration.

And therein lies the wonder.

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