(Photo by Selma Komisky)
In Winter Wonderland
By Sarah Komisky
“But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.”
– Luke 2:19 (ESV)
Imagine with me. It’s a night where the every-day became the extraordinary. In a small humble town, people went about their business as usual under the blanket of the night sky. Little did they know creation awaited in tension until the moment of illumination. This was the night when the common would grace the majestic. Angelic beings visited the social misfits of the day––the shepherds––watching their flock by night and danced in the dusk. They proclaimed a message of hope amongst the stars, the night reverberating their praise of good news to all men. The Savior clothed in human flesh was born that night and hearts pounding with hurried feet to speak what was told to them. There, in the little town of Bethlehem, they found just as the angels told them, the Christ-child lying in a lowly manger. In astonishment, they tell all who were there what had just transpired. The young couple listens. All are in wonder and Mary treasures the words in her heart.
When was the last time you were truly in wonder during the holidays? Think about it. Maybe it’s the words we say under our breath as we find ourselves amidst skyscrapers in a decorated city. Sometimes it can be as simple as watching strings of lights twinkle in the December twilight or even standing outside and letting the first snowfall touch your face. Maybe it was the sound of children’s voices singing a carol. The smell of fresh pine. The warmth of being around those you love or the first time you believed in Santa. The taste of a special holiday recipe or the smoke of your breath that escapes you in winter. All of it is wonderful. But somehow, in the midst of these truly wondrous experiences, the greatest cause for wonder can escape us.
Today, our experience with the nativity can be reduced to décor or a traditional story. It can be buried in familiarity, busyness, distraction, pain, or unbelief, and the luster of the Christmas message can fade. The greatest tragedy is how we go through the season without ever truly experiencing the its true wonder.
Francis Chan in his New York Times best seller, “Crazy Love” talks about the importance of the “awe factor” with God that comes from admiring the Creator. Marveling occurs through experience. Experience comes through knowing. In relationship, we want to get to know. It’s not forced. Knowing and understanding leads to love, cherishing, and treasuring.
In his chapter entitled, “Crazy Love,” Chan writes, “Over time I realized that when we love God, we naturally run to Him – frequently and zealously…our motivation changes from guilt to love.”
There is a difference. Duty is not love. It drains every drip of awe and reduces relationship to a checklist. One motivation comes from a place of striving to please and the other comes from having a response from an encounter of, “we love because He first loved us,” (1 John 4:19). Love is not produced. It is born out of pursuit and being.
More than ever, we live in a time where distraction steals relationship. Everyone’s go-to response is, “I’ve been so busy.” Between work or school, the routine, appointments, networking, staying on top of our social media, e-mails, and texts, relationships, and ministry, we forsake relationship with God. In a world that is filled with distractions, Jesus can get crowded out when He isn’t prioritized. I might also add that He also get neglected when He isn’t valued. We value what we see as valuable whether it’s success, beauty, career, family, popularity, a relationship, money, or dreams for example. But do we value Jesus?
Sometimes we don’t value because we don’t know exactly who He really is. We can hear things without experiencing. Or, we can have a wrong view which can lead to distance because we think Jesus is strictly Judge, Just, Angry, or Temperamental, Lackadaisical, Indifferent, Unconcerned, or Unreal. Either one of these can turn us away from Jesus so that we don’t value Him. But, if you’ll let me, I want to introduce you to the real Jesus. John 3:16 says that Jesus was sent to earth to save us because He loved us. He lived as a human to experience what we do so He could sympathize with our struggles (Hebrews 4:15-16). This is Jesus. The God that risked it all, going to extreme lengths (the cross) for us, in the name of love. This is the God I want to know and when we start to understand who the real Jesus is, we value Him. He becomes our treasure.
This is why intentionality is key. Mary was this way. She knew God and knowing him led her to live in a posture of wonder. Throughout her entire supernatural experience, she consistently was awestruck. She was in wonder at the news Gabriel gave of being the mother of Christ. She ran to tell her cousin of this good news, worshipping bursting in praise (known as “The Magnificat”). She later marvels at Simeon’s prophecy over Jesus (Luke 2:33). When she heard of the shepherds’ account, she also marveled.
I don’t know about you, but I want to see Jesus like Mary did this Christmas. Mary heard the news of Jesus and believed. She believed who He was and then she could see with supernatural eyes and experience wonder. Even though it seems that Mary was the contemplative type, this experience isn’t reserved for the artsy, pensive folk. You can be you and still wonder because captivation happens with cultivation. This usually begins with getting quiet and getting alone with God, without distraction. But wonder can also be cultivated together. Christmas is the perfect time to be in community. Whether individually or collectively, I pray you would take everything in this Christmas. See the season with fresh eyes. Marvel at it. Let Jesus leave you in wonder and treasure the experience.
Fun Ideas to Cultivate Wonder This Christmas:
- Shut down technology and invite God in the space and be. Grab a Bible, pen, paper, and write.
- Do an Advent calendar this December (and enjoy some chocolate, too)!
Listen to Christmas carols and worship!
- Go outdoors. Take a walk. Drive. See some holiday lights and talk to God!
- Grab some friends and go to a church service together.
- See a nativity play (or a drive-thru nativity – yes they do exist!)
- Start a text thread of Scriptures from the Christmas Story in Luke with your friends. Share your thoughts or start a Bible reading plan together (bible.com has awesome ones where you can invite and write comments!)
- Sing some carols at a convalescent home or to those who are homebound.
- Ask about their Christmas looking back. You can learn a lot from the past.
- Be creative and have a tree decorating party with ornaments that remind you of the true meaning of Christmas.
- Study the advent story over hot cocoa or egg nog. Talk about it. See things from a new perspective.
- Go experience some of things we talked about earlier like snow. Snap some photos and talk about how awesome it is together! Plus, you’ll have the good memories to put on social media.