Celebrating Christmas is, for the Christian believer, a celebration of wonder and mystery. The curiosity of children looking at gifts brilliantly wrapped and mysteriously appearing under a tree while they are sleeping, is the image of the wonder and delight captured in the heart of the Christmas story. While this might quickly be lost in the hustle and bustle and flurry of activities like food preparation and exchanging of presents, we must be intentional in our remembering the meaning of Christmas. Especially when we live in a season where headlines and events stir up confusion, doubt and, at times, fear over jobs, health, politics, and the future.
Bobby Gross (2009) writes, “This is the season of wonder: the Highest gave up glory to be born of the lowly, the Logos and Light became the body and the blood, the government of God began in a barn, and the angels of heaven sang the hope of all humanity. Wonder fills us with joy and moves us to self-giving love, for wonder is the posture of the humble, the grateful” (Living the Christian Year, pg. 74).
There is a Christmas hymn that isn’t often sung because of its solemn tone, keeping with a Celtic theme. “I wonder as I wander” draws attention to the simplicity and essence of the Gospel message, while acknowledging the mystery and wonder therein. When we sing this song, I am always drawn into the ‘simplexity’ of faith in Christ. This is a term I borrowed from Leonard Sweet who describes its meaning as the “two dimensions of growing in faith.” While the Christian faith is simple to apprehend, it is more complex than we can understand fully. The Gospel simply says, believe in Jesus, his birth, life, death and resurrection. But the complexity bound in a person fully human, fully divine, loving humanity to the cost of his own death is beyond reason and explanation.
As we close the season of Advent and turn toward the new year, our prayer for you is that you can celebrate the mystery and wonder of a God who has been faithful from the beginning of time and continues to be faithful, even in these crazy times. As it says in Hebrews, “Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” (10:23, ESV).
Written by: Rev. Brian S. Kono, Ph.D. – University Chaplain, Associate Professor of Theology
To view full bio, click here.
Words to “I wonder as I wander” credited to John Jacob Niles
1. I wonder as I wander out under the sky,
How Jesus the Savior did come for to die.
For poor on’ry people like you and like I…
I wonder as I wander out under the sky.
2. When Mary birthed Jesus ’twas in a cow’s stall,
With wise men and farmers and shepherds and all.
But high from God’s heaven a star’s light did fall,
And the promise of ages it then did recall.
3. If Jesus had wanted for any wee thing,
A star in the sky, or a bird on the wing,
Or all of God’s angels in heav’n for to sing,
He surely could have it, ’cause he was the King.