Hungry for Wonder

I am hungry for wonder –

my wife can attest- I am always on the lookout for fantastic things…

and my driving occasionally suffers as a result.

It is a very delicate rationalization from being “aware of your surroundings” as a driver,

to being constantly on the lookout for wildlife.

But I can’t help it. Birds of prey, deer, fox – whatever there is, I’m eager to see it.

The animal kingdom , when encountered free from fences and artificial enclosures,

constitutes something miraculous for me.

And when I find the object of my search – something strange happens.

My brain declares that particular stretch of road a wonderful place –

a place ‘most likely to produce a close encounter with nature.’

And then each time I pass the spot, my eyes are drawn to it,

hoping again to see something wonderful.

I am, you might imagine, quite often disappointed.

The wonder is never where I expect it to be.

 

You have (I hope) your own idea of what passes for wonder –

perhaps it is the ever present beauty of nature –

or the reliable faithfulness of a particular friend –

but fast approaching is the closest thing to “universal wonder” that we have

in this age of constant information and the resulting ‘de-mystification’ of all things.

 

Heavenly visitors, bringing tales of an infant redeemer.

Soon will the shepherds dance and the wise men bow.

Christmas is coming,

and a great many people, some without any particular religious conviction,

will mark this wonderful event with feasting, song, and a kind of self-serving generosity

that is encouraged (and enabled) by secular retailers and purveyors of pretty things.

It is wonderful – don’t get me wrong, I’m still a big fan of the fuss we make at Christmas –

And wonder being in such short supply these days, I’ll not destroy the joy for you –

especially if you are one of those

for whom Christmas is the pinnacle of all that is holy, happy and good.

But since we are meant to be the bringers of glad tidings in the form of Gospel,

I will put before you this interesting idea I have.

 

The wonder of the season is never where we expect it.

 

This is true, I think, throughout the whole of Scripture.

God’s promised help comes in unusual ways, to unlikely people,

and we, as God’s people, often see wonder in these encounters

where there was originally strangeness and horror and dread.

It is only over centuries – generations of hearing the story

and interpreting for our own time the ‘things God has done’

that we find wonder and peace and hope and joy.

 

It took a long time for the story of Jesus birth to take its familiar shape.

And for me, the wonder of the Christmas story comes under suspicion

when we remember that Mary was first of all an unwed teenage mother.

That God would appear in a vision to one such as her was (and is) preposterous.

That God would commission such as Mary to be a source of revelation to the world is ridiculous!

A woman who dis-honoured her potential husband

by arriving for the nuptial celebration carrying a child of unknown origin

(or any origin, for that matter) would not be tolerated under the statutes of the day.

And even in the most pious of homes,

to credit “the spirit of God” for the conception of said child

would be seen as the weakest of excuses.

The wonder here is first how did Mary survive to honour her contract with Joseph,

and ultimately honour God’s call to bear a son…

 

No, the wonder is not where we imagine it too be.

 

Our sacred images of blessed Mary, meek and mild, are constructed by what came after.

Angelic visitors, received without hesitation, are fitting heralds of the one

who endured the cross and rose victorious from the grave.

But for now, we have wonder in an unexpected place.

A quiet girl in a quiet room, dealing with an unexpected pregnancy,

and giving God glory for this most unexpected (and, perhaps unwelcome) event in her life.

 

It shouldn’t have been wonderful – it might have been tragic –

but our experience of her child, grown to manhood

has made his birth a source of wonder, joy and hope

that has endured throughout our time, and promises to endure beyond time.

 

Let us give God glory for all the ways

we experience the wonder that is the result of the birth of Jesus,

whom we call Christ and King. Amen

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