And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. (Luke 2:16–18)
The people who heard the shepherds’ testimony were filled with wonder. Wonder is a sense of amazement. It can be defined as “a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration, caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar, or inexplicable.” Even though the cultural celebration of Christmas has a tendency to take away the sheer shock value of the gospel narratives, nevertheless the accounts themselves are so amazing that we can come back to them year after year and sense something of how awestruck Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and wise men must have been. And yet, as amazing as the angelic appearances were, as shocking as the news of a virgin bearing a child was, it was the message about the child that astonished these people.
What was this message? It was that the child was the Savior, Christ (or Messiah) the Lord. This one was Immanuel, God with us. Have we become so familiar with Christmas that we find it all predictable, reasonable, comfortable and cozy? Or does that news still fill us with wonder? Do we marvel at the mystery of the incarnation, that the second person of the Trinity became man for us and for our salvation? Are we amazed at the revelation of God through the Son, that Christ is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature? Are we shocked that his name would be Jesus, because he would save his people from their sins? Are we taken aback that one so high would be born so low, so that we might one day be raised up with him?
The Bible records a story about someone for whom the message of Jesus’ birth was a surprise, but without a sense of admiration. We know well the account of Herod. He told the Magi to let him know where the child was so he too could go and “worship” him. What pretense, to feign homage with intent to murder! But don’t we see that kind of thing all around us today? How easy it is to act as if Christ is important around a holiday while enjoying the company of family and friends, and yet cast him aside in time for New Year’s? Every year at Tenth we make much of Christmas, because by his grace we want to make much of Christ. We want Christ to be the central focus of all of our lives, all year round.
To this end we are having three worship services on Christmas Eve, at 9 and 11 AM, and a family service at 4:30 PM. In addition, our traditional Lessons and Carols services are being held on December 23 and 24 at 7:15 PM. The theme for the entire weekend, “A Great and Mighty Wonder” comes from one of the carols the choir will be singing: A great and mighty wonder, a full and holy cure. The virgin bears the infant with virgin honor pure. Repeat the hymn again! “To God on high be glory, and peace on earth to men!” The Word becomes incarnate and yet remains on high. And cherubim sing anthems to shepherds from the sky. Repeat the hymn again! “To God on high be glory, and peace on earth to men!”
Please be in prayer about these services, asking the Lord to use them to make Christ known to all attending and that he would be glorified by each one as he so richly deserves.
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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By Colin Howland. © 2020 Tenth Presbyterian Church. Website: tenth.org