December 30, 2008
Taking Time to Wonder
I love Christmas – the music, the decorations, the baking etc. It’s a wonderful time of year. The week between Christmas and New Year's Day is one that always seems like a holiday. But what makes Christmas more wonderful than any other time of year?
We think Christmas is wonderful when the floor under the tree is loaded with presents, when there are lots of good things to eat, when the stars shine and the lights twinkle and the kids don’t fight. We have this picture perfect image of what makes a wonderful Christmas.
But where’s the wonder when…
- the kids all have the flu and you spend most of Christmas cleaning up after them
- or when the doctor says the dreaded words – it’s cancer, or it’s MS
- when you receive a phone call – ‘there’s been an accident’
- or a child dies
- or a teenage daughter says, ‘I’m pregnant’
- or a husband says, ‘I don’t love you anymore’
All of a sudden the wonder is gone. Those wonderful feelings disappear in an instant. Life is a burden, heavy and cumbersome. Loneliness overwhelms. We smile and carry on and wish we could just hide in a closet.
The wonder of Christmas is encapsulated in the message of the angel to Joseph – “The virgin will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God with us.” God with us. God with me. God with you.
The wonder of Christmas is the wonder of Christ’s presence in all the ups and downs of life. Wonder is knowing that we are not alone. I want more than just wonderful – I want it to be wonder-filled. How can we do that?
What do we miss when we fail to pay attention? Women are great multi-taskers, and the younger generation can juggle so many things that it’s dizzying. They’re going to leave us in the dust. I went into my youngest daughter’s room one day. The music was blaring, she was studying for a class and she was chatting on MSN to a number of people. But what really took me aback is that she had her sewing machine set up, and she was sewing in between studying, chatting and listening.
In order to recapture the wonder we need to slow down. What a silly thing to say at this time of year when everything seems to speed up. Slow down? That might be possible for an hour in January, but in December – forget it. The list of things to do grows longer and longer. Everything takes more time because everyone is out in the stores. We stand in line and get even more behind. The calendar fills up more and more. We rush here and there, never pausing to think.
The Bible tells us “Be still and know that I am God.” I think one of the reasons that the song “Silent Night” is so appealing is that it conveys something of stillness. When you think that you don’t have time to just stop, that’s the time you need it the most. Take time to really focus on your activity, find enjoyment in what you’re doing, breathe deeply and relax. Know that God is with you in all of your busyness. He’s there standing in line at the cashier. He’s driving with you in the car. He’s in the kitchen when you’re cooking. Take time to sit in a chair and read the Christmas story from the Bible out loud. Read it to your children. Read it to yourself. Just stop.
I don’t want to become blasé about the wonders of creation. Creation tells us so much about God. The stars and planets show his glory, his majesty. The infinite variety of snowflakes tell us of his care for individuality.
A few summers ago Tim and I spent a week in the Kootenay mountains. One of the things we did was take a cave tour. After hiking up the mountain our guide gave us headlamps and gloves to wear. The cold and damp seeped into our bones and we were glad for the jackets we’d brought along. There, deep inside the earth, beautifully formed stalactites graced the darkness. I was struck by the care God took in creating the inside of the earth that few people would see. God created the world for us to enjoy. He could have made everything grey and dull, but he used his infinite creativity to delight us. So I encourage you to stop and look. Look at the faces of the people you love. Look at the bare branches of trees and admire their stark beauty. Use all the senses God gave you. Taste the food you eat – he made it all different when he could have made everything taste just like oatmeal and we would be nourished. But instead he made oranges sweet and lemons sour. Cinnamon and ginger, garlic and honey. What a variety of taste. Sniff your children’s necks, your husband’s hair, the food on your plate. Touch the hand of a friend. Run your fingers over the prickly needles of pine. Feel the softness of a sweater. Look and experience.
The world is full of noise. But is anyone really listening?
We all like to talk and sometimes when we look like we’re listening we’re really just thinking about what we’re going to say next as soon as we can get a word in edgewise. Our words are much more important to us than other people’s words.
God spoke on that night so long ago when he sent Jesus as a little baby. He said, “I love you. I love you so much that I’m sending my very own son to show you the way to have a relationship with me.”
“Listen to the words my son will tell you and you will be listening to me,” he says. “I care about you.”
The wonder of Christmas is that it’s never over. Christmas began in the loving heart of God our Father. It continues 365 ¼ days each year in the assurance that God is with us. God with us. God with me. God with you. In all of the joy you celebrate, God is there celebrating with you. When you dance, he dances. When you laugh, he laughs with you. And in those dark and terrible times, he is with you in the silence, whispering his love to you, weeping with you.
“I’m here. With you. I will never leave you. You’re not alone.”
That is the wonder of Christmas that can wash over us in great waves and then trickle into the very core of our being, filling all the hidden hollows of emptiness.
God with us. God with you.
Labels: Lorrie Orr