From my devotional journal, “Wonder, Full”:
We live in a cynical culture, in a judgmental world. If you aren’t intentional about cultivating joy and peace in your own heart and mind, life can get challenging when joy is reduced to selfish commercialism, and peace is buried under negativity and frustration.
Jesus said, “Unless you repent—change how you think—and are transformed to become like a child, you have no part in the kingdom of God” (Matthew 18:3).
Why a child ? Because a healthy child lives in wonder. They see joy, peace, love, and magic in the most normal day. At Christmas, there seems to be something even deeper and more powerful. God’s presence is always with you, but when millions are singing in stores, “his law is love, and his gospel is peace,” “Joy to the world, the Savior reigns,” and, “O come let us adore him,” the barriers between the natural and supernatural become thin as wrapping paper.
When I was young, our family would have great Christmas eve parties, with amazing friends who are still amazing friends. Those nights of fantastic food and fun are some of my favorite memories. Part of our tradition was to all gather around an old nativity set at the end of the night, and put the figurine of Jesus into the manger, completing the scene.
For many years, after everyone had gone home and my family was in bed, I would go quietly downstairs, turn the Christmas tree lights on, and sit by the manger. I remember being six years old and knowing Santa wasn’t real (Santa and my mother had the same handwriting). But I knew God. Even at that age, I would think about why he came to earth this way, and he helped me understand the wonder of it. I thanked him for everyone and everything in my life, and for how kind and loving he was to me. I listened to him speak to my heart of so many powerful possibilities, some of which I’m just now starting to see. The awe I experienced on those nights made me cry. It still does.
That sense of wonder has stayed with me. Much of my life I’ve been susceptible to being sucked into self-pity, but wonder has helped me get past cynicism, negativity, and pain, to see what’s real, and what’s possible. Many people have told me they were encouraged by how I dealt with cancer. Anything good that came out of that part of my journey was an overflow of the awe and joy of being in his presence. It came from knowing God was far greater than anything I was facing. It came from that little boy sitting by the manger in the light of the Christmas tree.
No matter what time of year you’re reading this, take time to nurture wonder. In that place, let Jesus awaken the joy of a child in your heart, and establish his complete peace in your mind, so much they overflow to everyone in your life. That’s the gift you’ve been looking for.