We filled Saturday morning, loaded it with good things, with sights and sounds and scents and tastes of the season for our little girl to experience. We didn’t intend to overload her senses, to pack the day to the point of overwhelm, but perhaps we did, one small thing leading to another and another until I drove a weary girl home at nap time, her eyes barely open as I followed the sweeping curves of our country highway, as I carried her from the car to the nursery. I bundled her into her crib and she was asleep in moments. I hope she dreamt of new and exciting experiences. I hope she cemented them deep in her memory, building a framework of love and security and festivity for the future.
I wonder how it seemed to her, these odd things we do to celebrate Advent: a tree, brought into the house, laden with temptation in the form of bright balls and twinkling lights; a concert, singing, a jolly man in a red suit; the incessant rumble of hundreds of motorcycles making their way past us for the annual toy run. How did they strike her? Did she find them strange, unfathomable, bizarre, or was she merely struck with curiosity, with wonder, with awe?
Either way, her world sparkles with novelty, with the excitement and joy of one who has not yet lost her ability to wonder. Everything is new, strange, wonderful to her.
I settle into routine. I fall into traditions, long-established. There is comfort here, and joy, memories of Christmases past, stories from my childhood that have woven their way into the celebrations of my present.
And yet, these things are normal, common, repeated year after year, so that they are no longer new and fresh. I do not always see them for what they are.
It is strange, is it not, to bring a tree into the house, to decorate it with lights and ribbon and miniature figures? It is strange to fill socks with good things, things to eat and to wear and to enjoy. It is strange to knock on strangers’ doors, to sing songs about snowmen and shepherds and stars. All of this is strange.
All of this is strange, but I have come to view it as commonplace and normal, as expected, as just a part of this life I live.
Of course, the real wonder of the season is not in the gifts or the snow or the lights or the trees, not in the concerts or the services or the special meals.
The real wonder of the season is in this: that infinite, Almighty, perfect God became man, came to earth that He might reconcile us to Himself. The real wonder is that Christ came to save sinners, of which I am the worst. The real wonder is that He lived and He lives, He loved and He loves.
It is strange, is it not, to think of God becoming man, to imagine the ineffable divine becoming flesh and blood, dirtying Himself in the clay of this world? It is strange that a holy being might lower Himself in order to rescue unholy man. It is strange to picture God as a baby, in the squalor of a first-century cave, born to a virgin mother. All of this is strange.
All of this is strange, but I have come to view it as commonplace and normal, as expected, as just a part of this life I live. God forgive me.
Jesus said we must become like little children, and as I watch my daughter soak up the world around her, I get a hint of what He meant. I must shed the layers of routine and normalcy and cynicism, must learn to see things anew, with wonder in my eyes and awe in my heart. I must recapture the beauty of the promise, must hear the old familiar story and let it speak to my heart, my soul, my spirit. I must recognize how very strange, how very wonderful, the message of Christmas is.
This is my prayer this Advent season: that I might be given eyes to see and ears to hear. That I might experience awe. That I might hear the angels’ voices and, with the shepherds, fall on my knees in holy worship.