The Awe of Christmas

Small child gazing in awe at a Christmas Tree

Zac Andersen – Photo by Victoria Andersen

There is nothing like the twinkle in a child’s eyes gazing at a Christmas tree. Words like awe, wonder, amazement, peace, warmth, joy, and love are feeble efforts to capture the feelings of Christmas.

The deluge of news and events at home and abroad can drown the simple wonder of the Christmas season. Negativity abounds.  King Solomon’s writings in Ecclesiastes reminds us that things in this world remain strikingly the same across time.

Two thousand years ago, the nation of Israel was under Roman occupation.  There were uprisings, murders, thefts, assaults, and a host of other events that we have today.  Times may change, but the differences are really minor.  There are more ways to inflict harm on others and we have communications that tell us about events in real time around the world.

In America today there is a cultural war to remove the term “Christmas” where ever possible. Major chain stores go out of their way to use “Holiday” instead of “Christmas.” Whether it is a holiday tree, a holiday sale, or happy holidays, there is an intentional effort to remove the word Christmas at every opportunity.

When I think of the assault on Christmas, my initial reaction is anger.  I want to say to those who succumb to political correctness:

“Stop allowing the bullying by a small percentage to take the joy from the majority of us. We do not use ‘Merry Christmas’ as an assault on anyone. Stop treating us as if we do.”

This year, I choose to view the cultural war a little differently. I am going back to the awe of Christmas. The fact that someone else chooses to reject, ignore, or even ridicule Christmas does not take away the awe of Christmas.

The truth is that when I get bent out of shape over another assault on Christmas, I allow the world to control my focus. In anger and defensiveness I focus my attention back on the war on Christmas and not on the wonder of the One who is the reason for the season.

In other words, I replace the awe and joy with anger and defensiveness. When I do that, I join the enemy and fight against that very cause which I claim to defend.

The prophet Isaiah wrote, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.” (Isaiah 9:2 ESV) Hundreds of years later shepherds were sitting in darkness on a hillside. Without warning, they experienced the prophecy of Isaiah come to pass in their very presence.

8 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” (Luke 2:8-14 ESV)

On that first Christmas, the shepherds experienced the glory of the Lord. They heard good news of great joy. They witnessed a multitude of the heavenly host proclaiming the birth of Jesus with, “Glory to God in the highest.”

In the midst of awe, the shepherds were initially filled with great fear. They were evaluating their experience against their limited knowledge which was based on spiritual darkness. The result was great fear.

The angel countered fear with the truth. “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”(Luke 2:10 ESV)

Truth won the day. Verse 20 tells us that “the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.”

This Christmas season, I am resolved to a different strategy in the culture war against Christmas. I will not get on the defense focusing on political correctness and assaults on Christmas.

I am returning to the original Christmas. The awe of the original Christmas overwhelmed the shepherds with God’s persuasive presence and God’s essential erasure.

Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:16 ESV) The twinkle in the eyes of a child gazing at a Christmas tree reminds us of what is present and what is absent in the true meaning of Christmas.

Awe, wonder, joy, and love are God’s persuasive presence.  God’s essential erasure, the erasure of fear, speaks just as loudly.  “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” (Luke 2:10 ESV)

Immanuel, God with us.  That is more than awesome.  With that same persuasive presence of awe and that same essential erasure of fear, I wish you a Merry Christmas.

Signature-Donald E. Cole

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