My family has a tradition where, as soon as Thanksgiving meal is over, Christmas has officially begun. The Christmas tree goes up, Christmas music gets turned on, and the Christmas movies come out. To be honest, I’m not the biggest fan of this tradition. Getting the Christmas tree out meant resurrecting from my post-Thanksgiving coma, climbing up into the attic with my dad and pulling down the fake tree. The fact that Christmas music starts in November is a straight-up crime (I can only handle so much of Mariah Carey singing “All I Want for Christmas is You”). And, Christmas movies (aside from Elf, Home Alone, and Die Hard) are the worst (in my humble opinion).
I love this time of year, though. I love getting to use the fireplace. I love the first snows. I love the family time. For many, Christmas is the favorite time of year.
However, not everyone reading this would agree. For some of you, you dread this time of year. Christmas is hard for you because all the cheesy, Christmas romance movies remind you of your singleness or remind you of your loneliness. For some, this Christmas is going to be hard because it’s the first one to experience after having lost a loved one. For others, the holidays are hard because their family is a mess, and there is so much brokenness back home. In a weird way, the holidays can be some of the darkest seasons.
We just started a 4-week Advent series at my church called, Wonder. We chose the word “wonder” because to have wonder is to have this feeling of surprise and admiration for something because it’s so beautiful, so unexplainable, or so unexpected.
The wonder of Christmas for a child might be the surprise and excitement of waking up and finding presents under the tree, or seeing that the cookies they left out the night before for Santa have been eaten, or waking up and looking out the window to see that it’s snowing.
But, the wonder of Christmas for a believer is totally different. It’s the fact that God chose to save the world. Not only that, but He chose to do so in the most beautiful, unexplainable, and unexpected way!
I think John 1:14 is one of the most mind-blowing statements in the whole Bible. It says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” Prior to this statement, back in verse 1, John establishes the fact that “the Word was God.” This is crazy! God became flesh and dwelt among us. God became human and inserted Himself into our lives. Our transcendent God…the same God who, when He came down on Mt. Sinai, people couldn’t come too close to or else they would die…the same God who, if anyone stepped into His presence in the temple without being properly consecrated and having the proper authority and permission, would die…thatGod came and dwelt among us! He erased the distance between us and Him both physically and spiritually!
But, that’s not all. He did so in the most unexpected way. He didn’t come as a powerful king riding in with a huge army, He came as a poor carpenter’s son born in a feeding trough. And, He didn’t show His power by arriving on the scene and swinging His sword, He showed His power by dying on a cross. This is the wonder of the gospel! In a sermon he preached in 1892, Charles Spurgeon said, “He that hung upon the cross was the Maker of all worlds. He that came as an infant for our sake was the Infinite. How low He stooped! How high He must have been that He could stoop so low!¹ What a wonderful gospel.
And, if you back up to John 1:5, you will find what I believe to be the most compelling thing of this whole story. It says, “The light shines in the darkness.” Do not miss the significance of this statement. Where does the light shine? It shines in the darkness. In other words, God pursues us right in the midst of our sin. We weren’t the ones who went looking for Him. He came looking for us. This is the wonder of the gospel! My hope for you and for me is that this Christmas, our hearts would be recaptured by the wonder of the gospel.
Austin Wadlow and his wife, Lesley, and son, Judah, live in Iowa where he serves as the Teaching Pastor and Salt Company Director at Keystone Church in Ankeny, IA. They will be planting a Salt Network church in East Lansing, MI at Michigan State University in Fall 2019. You can connect with Austin via Twitter: @austinwadlow