Certain images inspire wonder. They’re powerful beyond the simple contents of the scene.
In the nativity scene we have such an image: a serene new mother, a concerned father, and a vulnerable newborn child. Beleaguered travelers, forced to take refuge in a stable, and the child is carefully laid in a manger—a food trough. The crude surroundings leave the new family barely protected from the elements, open to any and all who come their way. And yet it inspires wonder! I believe that the purpose of wonder is to open our hearts. It’s to help us to see that there is more to life than we have come to expect. It tells us that coursing through human life there are elements of the divine. The manger scene is both an invitation and a promise. The invitation is to leave our pursuit of worldly things behind and instead to enter into the Mystery. To be as vulnerable as this child and these parents. To be as open as these shepherds and as generous of heart as the three kings. To praise like the angels and pay attention like the townspeople. The resulting promise is that we will encounter God. We will discover not only that Jesus is God, but that we too share in God’s life—not only in the afterlife, but right here and right now.
AND SO, HERE’S A CHRISTMAS INVITATION -- it’s an invitation in the very midst of this pandemic, in the midst of all the fear and suffering and loss...to open our hearts to the wonder of this Christmas moment. Let us all say a prayer of gratitude for the gift of love that God has for each and everyone of us…just as we are! Let us not squander this moment of wonder. Let us open our hearts to the poor and the marginalized, to the voiceless and the ignored, to women who are victims of assault and harassment, to the victims of racism and bigotry and hatred, to open our hearts to the immigrants and refugees. Let us reach out to the brokenhearted and lost. Let us not forget in the rush of the gift giving that this is not about gifts but it is about our God becoming flesh, becoming our salvation and the salvation of the all world! Let us allow the wonder of the Incarnation to settle into our hearts and transform us, to give us new eyes to see the world.
I pray that each and every one of you have a “wonder-filled” Christmas and pray you come to know how deeply and passionately you are loved by God…just as you are!