Monthly Archives: November 2012

Sense of Wonder – Hope

2012 Advent Theme: Star of Wonder

First Sunday of Advent December 2, 2012: Sense of Wonder

This week officially turns the corner from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Of course retailers have had decorations and Christmas merchandise front and center for months already. Shoppers may or may not be recovered from “Black Friday” (or Thursday, this year), “Cyber Monday,” or other frenzied spending safaris they may have indulged. Radio stations have abandoned their usual formats to play all Christmas music all the time until New Year’s Eve. Christmas is upon us!

Advent is one answer the Christian church has offered to preserve the central message of Christmas, the coming of Jesus into our world. Hope is the keynote idea of the first Sunday in Advent. Hope is frightfully scarce in our everyday world. Anxieties over economic conditions, job security, government policies, taxing and spending, challenges to traditional values, health concerns, tenuous personal relationships, and hosts of other vexing issues are rampant. Fear is pervasive.

Hope is a powerful antidote to fear. Dispelling smug sophistication or jaded rationalism in order to bask in the liberating, overwhelming fascination of wonder infuses fearful hearts with hope. A keen sense of wonder is at the core of prophetic messages looking beyond the deficiencies of contemporary life to proclaim the wonderful hope of God’s provision and always-coming salvation.

I must not have been paying attention when the show tune My Favorite Things from The Sound of Music was adopted as a Christmas song. Numerous top-selling artists have recorded My Favorite Things on their Christmas albums. In the Broadway musical, the fledgling nun Maria sings the song in the Mother Abbess’ office as Maria is assigned to become the governess of Col. Von Trapp’s seven children. Maria is gripped with fear over her daunting assignment. In the film version of the musical, the song is relocated in Maria’s bedroom as a violent thunderstorm sends the frightened children scurrying to her room in fear of the storm. In both cases, Maria recalls a comforting sense of wonder at marvelously simple, profound things she has seen and known: “Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens., Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings., Silver white winters that melt into springs..” Remembering these favorite things causes her fears to vanish.

Crashing thunderstorms or challenging assignments may not spur our trepidations. Nonetheless, fears find us far too readily from other sources. Can a renewed sense of wonder begin our road to salvation?

Christmas celebrations connect us with the wonder of a child born in a manger. But floods of commercialized distractions often smother that sense of wonder. Perhaps recalling other wondrous episodes can help us to regain focus on the true source of our salvation during Advent.

David seems to grasp for words, he is so enthralled by remembering God’s great provisions of grace. While he does enumerate them in Psalm 145, he does show a sense of wonder at God’s goodness that has been demonstrated time and again, prompting David to sing and to overcome his fears. His recitation of God’s grace renews his hope for all eternity:

I lift you high in praise, my God, O my King! And I’ll bless your name into eternity.

{2} I’ll bless you every day, and keep it up from now to eternity.

{3} God is magnificent; he can never be praised enough. There are no boundaries to his greatness.

{4} Generation after generation stands in awe of your work; each one tells stories of your mighty acts.

{5} Your beauty and splendor have everyone talking; I compose songs on your wonders.

{6} Your marvelous doings are headline news; I could write a book full of the details of your greatness.

{7} The fame of your goodness spreads across the country; your righteousness is on everyone’s lips.

{8} God is all mercy and grace- not quick to anger, is rich in love.

{9} God is good to one and all; everything he does is suffused with grace.

{10} Creation and creatures applaud you, God; your holy people bless you.

{11} They talk about the glories of your rule, they exclaim over your splendor,

{12} Letting the world know of your power for good, the lavish splendor of your kingdom.

{13} Your kingdom is a kingdom eternal; you never get voted out of office.

God always does what he says, and is gracious in everything he does.

{14} God gives a hand to those down on their luck, gives a fresh start to those ready to quit.

{15} All eyes are on you, expectant.. (Psalm 145:1-15a MSG)

Our sense of wonder is easily crushed from two directions during the Christmas season. Cynical commercialism dulls our senses in avalanches of tinsel and glitter and promises of finding the bargain of a lifetime. Persistent threats from fearsome conditions enervate us and rob the joy and genuine awe rightly belonging to life lived in God’s grace. But a sense of wonder can be cultivated and rekindled. Maria did it by recalling her wonder at simple things that filled her life with meaningful hope. Her song concludes: . when I’m feeling sad – I simply remember my favorite things, and then I don’t feel so bad.” David recalled the wonders of God’s grace and concluded: “My mouth is filled with God’s praise. Let everything living bless him, bless his holy name from now to eternity!” (Psalm 145:21 MSG)

Find your sense of wonder anew. Dropping the easy pretensions that block our sense of wonder and genuine awe when we recall God’s gifts of grace can allow God’s gift of hope to overcome our fears. And what can be more wonderful and awesome than the coming of God’s Son, born to save? Stoke your sense of wonder at God’s gift of grace in Jesus Christ.

– J. Edward Culpepper

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