But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21 NKJV)
Christmas themes are filled with wonder and magic. Even the secular world has taken this from the Christian celebration, and if the world has misdirected it into reindeer, elves, and dancing snowmen, at least they have not missed the point entirely. The birth of Christ is filled with surprise, mystery, and wonder. It is about something that we do not understand brushing up against us in this world and leaving us in wonderment and awe.
If all we do is stand in awe and do not move forward in faith then we will have missed the message – Christ came, as the angel told Joseph, to save us from our sins. We must believe and accept and worship Christ, as well as follow Him and obey Him. The manger led to the cross, and the cross to the open tomb, the tomb to the ascension, and the resurrected Christ now leads by His Spirit.
But we should not lose the wonder of it all. If the celebration of Christmas has any meaning for us it is found in the rediscovery of the wonder of God acting in human history and bringing about the birth of Christ. Too often we of a biblical faith have declared the truth with such certainty that we have missed this point of wonder and awe. But there is something profoundly marvelous about it all that we should take to heart, and let the emotional side of our beings receive a spiritual exercise. And, if truth be told, our mental side also cannot keep up with God. We should not be afraid of wonder.
As the angel unexpectedly appeared to Joseph, so God deals with us in unexpected ways. He is like a divine prompter who stands just off stage and when we, the actors in the play of life, forget our lines or seem to have missed both the plot and the theme of this drama, or comedy, called “Life,” He feeds us the line by His Spirit. Suddenly it all makes sense, and there is a moment of wonder and awe in how God did that.
In the birth of Christ, however, God did much more than merely feed us the lines. He took the leading part Himself, and walked onto the stage of human history and the world has not been the same since.
But this is always the ways of God. He appeared to Moses in the burning bush, to Samuel in the divine name-calling voice, to David as the finger-pointed prophet of Nathan, to Elijah as the still small voice, to Isaiah in a vision of the Lord high and lifted up, to Paul on the road to Damascus as the resurrected Christ. More often than not, our personal experiences mirror Elijah’s of hearing a “still small voice,” a gentle whisper, but those are divine encounters with God. Forgive me if this sounds a bit odd to you, but I sometimes in my devotions feel that I should, as God commanded Moses, take my shoes off for I am standing on holy ground. This experience is not of my making, rather it is because God has spoken into my circumstance.
Do not be afraid to speak of angels and shepherds and wise men, of dreams and visions, of the Virgin and the child, of the miraculous deliverance from Herod, and of the wonder of this Baby in Bethlehem. The story should leave us scratching our heads just a bit, puzzled by the ways of God. God initiated the birth of Christ, the redemption of this world, and yours and my salvation experiences. Do not lose the wonder of Christmas, for if we do we will have missed a large and essential part of the message.
And do not be afraid of the Spirit’s movement in your life. When in doubt, go to the Word to make sure the message is the same, for He is the Author of the book. But do not be surprised at surprise itself, for it is the promise of the Church Age, as Peter preached:
But this is what was spoken about through the prophet Joel: ‘And in the last days it will be,’ God says, ‘that I will pour out my Spirit on all people, and your sons and your daughters will prophesy, and your young men will see visions, and your old men will dream dreams. (Acts 2:16-17)