by Jamie Bonnema
Christmas holiday schedules can be jam packed with one event after another. As we carefully plan our family schedule—where we will be, for how long, and when—I catch myself wondering if our family will miss the “wonder” of Christmas.
I remember the awe as a child, as I held a candle in a dark sanctuary with faces glowing, hearing all the voices that were normally a bit off tune, but now suddenly, almost heavenly, singing Silent Night. There was no denying the greatness of what we were celebrating. We didn’t just hear an account of a savior being born, we were caught up in the story. It didn’t just happen so many years ago—we were reliving it in our hearts, in the moment, as if we were right there with the kneeling shepherds, the quiet animals, the hovering angels, contemplative parents, the swaddled baby boy—the Anointed One—with a glow about His head. The wonder of Christmas was real and so much bigger than we could hold, and I didn’t want the service to end, no matter how many toys may or may not have been under the tree at home.
Is there any evidence of Christmas wonder in our daily lives? So often, we let fear, stress, activities, relationships, conflicts, and even do-good and daily tasks claim the space in our heads and hearts. We may not have intended for it to happen—it just did. Did we lose the wonder with our childhood?
I don’t have a formula, a checklist, or bullet points to help keep our hearts full of wonder during this Christmas season. I struggle with the same things as everyone else. I do, however, have something for you to ponder.
Imagine you have just tucked in your little ones for the night. You return to the kitchen for a glass of water, ready for a break, only to be reminded that the day’s work is not yet done. The bills on the counter stare back from their stack. Thoughts of a loved one’s diagnosis triggers fear. Your conversations with a friend come to mind and weigh heavily. You question if you’re making the right decisions for your kids. Family troubles seem beyond repair. Where are the answers when you are doing everything to make your marriage work? Exhausted and spent, you crumple against the wall, and tears start to drop on the floor. Heavy sobs begin, and soon it’s hard to catch your breath. Your mind screams WHY? In that moment of complete brokenness, a bright light fills the room!
The light is so bright you cover your swollen eyes and are instantly afraid, unsure of what is happening. You hear a voice that tells you to wipe your face for God has heard your cry. He has felt your pain, and He has counted your tears. He has sent you a Savior, a king, and all who believe in Him will know peace beyond understanding.
In that instant, a miracle happened in your heart. Suddenly you don’t see the bills on the counter, think about failing health, or recount relationship problems. The power and wonder was so great, you couldn’t wait until daylight to look into your kids’ eyes because you knew their future is secure. Your marriage is in His hands. You have been in the presence of the Savior—He changes everything. He is Wonder – full!
I kind of think that the kitchen experience is a miniature version of what happened when the shepherds were watching their flocks the night our Savior was born. An angel appeared, shining so brightly that they were afraid, who spoke first to calm their fears, and then to deliver the good news. Maybe the shepherds didn’t have marriage problems. Maybe they were on good terms with their fellow shepherds. Maybe they knew nothing of the problems of today’s complicated lives, but I guarantee you they had problems of their own, and they needed a savior. And when the glory of the Lord shone around them, their hearts were changed, so much that they left their flocks (their entire fortunes) to hastily seek their newborn king.
I hope that you find yourself running hastily after the King who speaks into the most private places in your heart and says, “I heard your cry. I love you so much. I sent you a Savior.” In all the busyness, may your Christmas season may be filled with awe and wonder, and may you find hope in His brilliant light all year-round.
Thank you, Renee, for the conversation and beautiful thoughts that initiated this article.
Jamie Bonnema is a former youth treatment counselor for residential care, education, and wilderness programs. She is a married mother of four children, works from home with a biotech company, and loves spending time outdoors.