Wonder and Awe

by Kelsey Knobloch

We will not hide them from their children; we will tell to the coming generation the glorious deeds of the Lord, and his might, and the wonders that he has done. – Psalm 78:4

Repeating the Christmas story over and over again, year after year, using the same words we always have…one might begin to find it a little dull. Blasphemous! How could you say such a thing!? But it does seem true, doesn’t it? If you peel away all the nostalgia, all the cute little kids in oversized shepherd costumes, all the carols that don’t quite have the facts straight (“But little Lord Jesus / no crying He makes”? Not likely…), it’s the same story.

Mary, pregnant before marriage, has a dream about an angel. Her fiancé takes her to an overly busy town where she has the baby in a stable because they didn’t think to make reservations. Some guys off the street stop by to see the baby because what’s a newborn doing in a stable anyway? Something like that.

Except that’s not it at all. The world would have us believe that the entire nativity story can be modernized, reinterpreted, and told just a little bit differently, and the basic message comes across the same. It’s worked before: just look at the plethora of sequels and remakes that fill the theatres. Re-hash the plot, throw a new cover on it, and the story is the same. It’ll be fine. But it’s not. Not this time.

Some of the wonder and beauty of Advent comes from the amazing things that are presented. We’re anxious to skirt around them, gloss over the hard-to-explain bits so we can see what we want: pretty, marketable Jesus in a manger with well-groomed parents. A nativity set we can put on our mantle. But the real nativity scene, with all of its wonder and awe, is life changing. It requires such a switch from our daily mindset that sometimes it’s easier to accept the remake. By accepting that, however, we rob the holiday of its glory.

Mary wasn’t just another teenage mom, pregnant before marriage. She was a virgin. We shy away from the word in polite society, but the implications here are amazing. Biologically, scientifically, we know this is impossible. But there it is, written as plain as day. In Luke 1, Mary says herself “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” It’s a downright miracle. It’s impossible, but God did it anyway. He took, as He so often does, something that’s beyond what we deem acceptable, beyond our ability to explain, and did it anyway. 

It’s hard to accept. Reason fights against it. If we accept virgin birth, what else might we have to accept? What other aspects of physics and science, of rational thought and common sense, might not apply? How about…well, the rest of the nativity story? That faux-interpretation above isn’t entirely off the mark of what some believe happened.

Mary didn’t have a dream about an angel; it actually, physically, really appeared to her, in front of her waking eyes. Something beyond anything that’s ever been seen, something science and reason has no explanation for. Those guys off the street that came to see him? They were visited by another angel, a shining beacon of light too bright to block out, a being of pure glory from heaven. 

Joseph didn’t just take her to a town without reservations, he fulfilled a prophecy written hundreds of years earlier, a prophecy he had no idea he’d be a part of. Micah writes that the Savior will be born in Bethlehem around 750 BC. That’s about the same time Rome was founded (the same Rome that would be occupying Israel when Jesus is crucified just shy of 800 years later). Some of us can’t remember what we had for lunch yesterday. Imagine trying to remember to fulfill a prophecy made before you were born!

We don’t want to seem silly. It’s the stuff of kid’s stories, some CGI effects, a trick of the light. But this wonder, this awe and majesty of the coming of Christ is what Christmas is. It’s the truth, even when it doesn’t seem to make sense to our rational minds. It’s not just a story, it’s the story. The facts. The way it really happened.

We accept the other amazing things of the Bible: the Son of the one true God lived among us. He made the blind see, the deaf hear, the mute speak, and the lame walk. He raised people from the dead. He was killed in front of a crowd of witnesses, then rose from the dead and continued to walk, talk, eat, and perform miracles until He was lifted up above the clouds. He is still among us, strengthening us, providing and shoring up our faith. All of this is true. And it’s all amazing. Words can’t describe the overwhelming wonder we should feel at these miracles, these facts.

Don’t let the world take the wonder out of Christmas. Mary isn’t pregnant out of wedlock; she’s a pregnant virgin. The angel wasn’t just a dream; it was a real appearance. The journey to Bethlehem wasn’t an ill-planned vacation; it was a prophecy fulfilled. Be amazed. Be filled with awe. See the wonder. Embrace the mystery.