Embrace the Wonder of Christmas

This post was originally featured on Jovey’s Journal.

Every year, my church ends our Christmas Eve service with Silent Night. During the previous song, candles gathered pre-service are lit. I am always filled with anticipation as I watch the gentle flicker from those candles grow. After the song’s final strains fade, the ceiling lights are turned off. The sanctuary is aglow from over four hundred candles. And then, after the piano and guitar play the introduction, a low, deferential combination of voices begin singing.

I get chills every time. The other selected songs are beautiful, but something about the way Silent Night is approached always fills me with a renewed sense of awe and wonder. That almost overwhelming combination stays with me as the congregants shuffle from the sanctuary after the service closes. In the foyer, those gathering for the next service laugh and converse around tables filled with cookies. Between the main doors stands a massive Christmas tree. A garland frames the stunning stained-glass picture of Christ above the sanctuary doors. Despite the sound of multiple conversations and children running around as they burn off the energy from consuming too many treats, the awe and reverence remains.

Music has always spoken to me. I connect with it, immerse myself in it. Half the time during group exercise classes, I get so lost in the music I respond to the instructor’s cues only by memory and instinct.

Words are powerful. Words set to music? Even more so.

Admittedly, Silent Night is not my favorite Christmas carol. Nevertheless, when the congregants in that sanctuary are singing it, it is a song which possesses almost unparalleled impact.

Whether or not this carol is your favorite Christmas tune, there is unarguably something about the song that makes one stop and think. There is a solemn undertone of reverence throughout the song, and as the verses progress, awe, wonder, and joy emerge, erupting in a beautiful symphony of praise and wonder.

In my opinion, an oft-overlooked part of the Christmas story is the praise and wonder exhibited by multiple characters. Elizabeth said to Mary, “[A]nd blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1: 42b-43). During this action, John the Baptist “leaped for joy” (Luke 1:44) when he heard Mary’s greeting.

In Luke 2:8-20, three groups experience wonder. The angels: “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest’” (Luke 1:13-14a). The shepherds, who “went with haste” and “returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them” (Luke 1:15-20). And those who heard the shepherds, “wonder[ing] at what the shepherds told them” (Luke 1:18).

Simeon, in Luke 1:29-32 and 34-35, experiences wonder. “[F]or my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples”. The wise men, who visited Christ around a year after His birth, followed a star for months before arriving. When they saw Jesus, they “fell down and worshiped him” (Matthew 2:11) before gifting gold, frankincense, and myrrh, gifts fit only for a king.

There is nothing wrong with lights, ugly Christmas sweaters, decorations and presents, or the festivities and the season’s cheery ambience. But those things are not what give us true joy and wonder. Christ came down, fully God and fully man, to be the sacrificial lamb. Without His humble birth and painful sacrifice, we would have no hope of salvation, of God’s grace and mercy to utterly depraved sinners. Remembering and being grateful for Christ’s perfect love and sacrifice is the only way to truly embrace the wonder of Christmas.

May you and yours have a Merry Christmas.

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel. – Isaiah 7:14


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