Part of the season of Advent is cultivating an attitude of wonder. So much of the “season of Christmas” in our culture often consists merely of decorating and shopping, but if you look into the eyes of a young child seeing a lit Christmas tree for the first time, you remember that wonder is abundant, even if we’ve forgotten about it as adults.
Worship during Advent is intentionally set up to make us slow down and wonder at the beauty that the coming Christ brings to our world. We don’t just jump into caroling in worship because we believe we first need to reflect on Christ’s first coming, Christ’s eventual return, the hopeful and joy-filled pages of prophecy pointing to his promises, and the powerful events of announcement and preparation leading up to the miraculous incarnation. The experience of Christmas means so much more with these preparing our hearts and minds.
When we take the time to light candles and steer our hearts toward focus on what Christ’s advent (“coming” in Latin) means for our lives, we have the opportunity alongside the little children to wonder anew at God’s deep love for us, God’s children. We get to wonder at God’s decision to come and live among us, teach us, be persecuted by us, and overcome death for us anyway. We get to wonder at what it means to be followers of the Messiah, the Son of God, the Holy One of Israel.
And I believe it’s our wonder that makes our hearts truly ready to hold the mystery of the Divine in the depths of our souls. It isn’t “right doctrine” and it isn’t perfectly-understood theology and it isn’t even good manners or church attendance. It’s our quiet wonder at the depths of who God is, was, and will forever be.
Madeleine L’Engle said of drawing others to this wonder:
We do not draw people to Christ by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it. —What I believe is so magnificent, so glorious, that it is beyond finite comprehension. To believe that the universe was created by a purposeful, benign Creator is one thing. To believe that this Creator took on human vesture, accepted death and mortality, was tempted, betrayed, broken, and all for love of us, defies reason. It is so wild that it terrifies some Christians who try to dogmatize their fear by lashing out at other Christians because tidy Christianity with all answers given is easier than one which reaches out to the wild wonder of God’s love, a love we don’t even have to earn.
Take time this season to wonder, to marvel at all God has done, is doing, and will do. Embrace this beautiful mystery of God-with-us. Hold in tension all that we know and don’t know about God and the incarnation. And share this Light with others, in all its wondrous glory.