The idea of ‘wonder’ has long intrigued me. There is something maddeningly elusive about wonder. But what I know is how intrinsically tied to hope and longing it is.
For some reason I tend to always feel that sense of wonder more acutely in December. I don’t entirely know why. So this post is partly for me to explore my own fascination.
December is synonymous with Christmas in my mind. Since I’ve never lived in a truly cold climate, December has never held that shroud of bleak winter for me. Growing up, December meant freedom from school and the long wait for Christmas presents. About the age of 17 my perspective changed.
In high school I wrestled with belonging and acceptance. When I heard about God’s love for me and His invitation to become His child, I was captivated. An offer of perfect acceptance and belonging. I couldn’t resist. It was a longing fulfilled. But it also changed how I looked at longing and waiting.
Waiting no longer equaled hindrance to longing fulfilled. It began to mean enduring with hope. Hope wasn’t something I was comfortable allowing myself to feel. I am the youngest of three kids, and growing up what I wanted and hoped for seemed elusive wishes. I was more used to disappointment, so I stopped hoping. But something was starting to thaw in my heart. Hope began to make an appearance.
Advent in it’s simplest terms means “A coming into view” or “arrival.” My 17th year marked the first time Christmas held a deeper meaning. The birth of Christ, the arrival of this baby boy, came into my view as more important than gifts and a full stocking. That arrival suddenly became synonymous with my new standing in God’s family…a beloved and fully accepted child.
It was the dawn of longing fulfilled in my heart. Wonder began to make an appearance. It was as if the growing chill in the air each winter also marked the growing feeling of wonder at how God could love and accept me. The life and death of Jesus accomplished this. His birth was the advent.
I love the feeling of wonder. To me it is linked to anticipation. Hope that anything can happen. Not a hope that I will receive the gift that I want or magical vacation days lay ahead. But a hope for peace both external and internal.
Shalom means the world as it was meant to be. Shalom is a peace meant to be experienced both externally and internally. Our world was intended to be that way. But as all of us can see it isn’t so peaceful. There is a lot out there that breaks the shalom of our world. So, there is a 24/7/365 onslaught of the peace we were meant to experience.
And it’s a daily battle to try and recover it, if not for the whole world, at least for us personally. How do we recover that peace? How do we regain our sense of wonder?
This is precisely why the Advent of the Prince of Peace is so remarkable. The Pax Romana (the Peace of Rome) supposedly ruled over the Roman Empire, but it was a shadowboxer. Every few years Caesar Augustus would call for a census. Much more than a counting of people, a census was an intrusive inquisition by force to get the information Rome wanted to elicit taxes and control and rule by fear. There was no pax…it was rule by terror. The fabric of Christ’s arrival was that He would be the Prince of Peace forever, reigning with righteousness.
Israel had been waiting and wondering for 400 years for a deliverer. They longed for peace, and freedom from tyranny. They waited for shalom to be restored. Wondering whether God cared or listened. It was a battle to hold on to hope. It was difficult to cling to the promises God had offered through prophets of the past. The fabric of their worldview—waiting, wondering, clinging to a longing unfulfilled.
Is it so different from us now? We are all waiting for something, are we not? We are all hoping for something different or better. We all want shalom…for the world and for ourselves.
For myself, when I encountered this Prince of Peace personally, it fundamentally changed how I hoped. It no longer was a hope untethered to something that can’t tangibly answer. But my hope became integrally attached to someone who can answer. My hope is no longer waiting on something, anything to happen. But my hope is an anticipation something could happen because my Father God loves and cares for me.
His answer to my longing could be “wait!” But He loves me still. He could answer my prayers immediately. But He loves me no less, or more, if I have to wait.
There is a sacredness in waiting. It crystallizes where our trust is. Will we turn to our own resources? Or will we wait, patiently, trusting God’s goodness even though we don’t see an answer? Because my hope is attached to the person of Christ, I can live in anticipation that an answer could be any day.
Wonder carries that same vein of anticipation. Anything can happen. But that hope is attached to a loving Father, who showed His love and provision of peace through the arrival of Jesus Christ.
It’s hard to hold on to this sacred wonder when busyness, parties, present buying, responsibilities, family, expectations are all crowding for our attention. How do we recover it?
Give yourself the gift of margin. Take a few moments each day to ponder God’s greatest gift…the Advent of Jesus. Remind yourself that there is a sacredness in waiting. It helps us find where our trust resides. Try to see God is good even if we have to wait for a longing to be fulfilled. Also, try to step back and picture the Prince of Peace giving you peace in the midst of the waiting.
I think why I love feeling this sense of wonder is that it fills me with hope. I am most filled with hope when I am most filled with love, and remember that I am loved. And I am most reminded that I am loved because of the Advent of Christ. I guess that is why December is my most wonder-filled month of the year.
I hope that you can regain a sense of wonder this Advent season.