“O star of wonder, star of light, star with royal beauty bright, westward leading, still proceeding, guide us to thy perfect light.” -Refrain of “We Three Kings of Orient Are” by John H. Hopkins
On a cold, dark December evening, I sat in a school gym on the bleachers with my family. It was my granddaughter’s Christmas concert for school. In the faces of the children and their families, there was excitement as the orchestra began to play.
With all of that going on, I found myself more attentive to the 10 month old little person sitting on my lap. She was thrilled to sit with me, and I knew keeping her entertained was key. My granddaughter bee-lined her focus toward the rubber message bracelet on my wrist, which she has been infatuated by for some time.
She kept tugging at the bracelet, and so I gave in and let her have it. She played with it. She tasted it. And she learned its true use. And I was so utterly amazed.
I showed her how it could slide on her tiny wrist like it had been on mine. The next thing I knew she was putting the large circlet on her petite arm all by herself. As soon as she slipped it on, she would take it off again. At first I thought it was a fluke, but then she kept this practice up, and for the next several minutes the bracelet was on and off.
It is amazing to witness the beauty of God’s creation in children. There is so much growth watching a baby age from newborn and through the first year. She is constantly figuring out the broader world, one interaction at a time. I am in awe each time I see her because she is doing more and more each time I visit.
Wonder and awe allow me to notice the little things that might otherwise get missed. The beautiful sky in the early morning. The pristine moonrise. The smile of loved one or stranger that brightens a room. Sometimes though, I am guilty of just going through my days without really attending to what is happening around me. When this happens opportunities and important details slip by. Moments of awe are missed.
True wonder makes it so I can be present in order to notice even the tiniest of commonplace things. In these last couple of weeks to Christmas, I am trying to pause and take note of what I am experiencing. A beautiful light display as a drive. A neighbor walking their dog who looks up to wave. It’s way too easy to focus my attention on the to-do list of shopping and preparation for family gatherings.
Yet to do that is to miss out on the moments of beauty and wonder that can be found in the ordinary things in my life. Like sitting on the couch reading a Christmas story to my grandkids. Carving out time to attend a holiday concert with a friend. Relaxing in my home in the quiet of the evening with only Christmas lights brightening the room.
It’s in these moments that I notice what brings me real joy. Like the photo of a friend and me with her baby. It was Christmas Eve many years ago, and I am reminded of how her little boy needed to be gently held amid the activities going on around him. How I stopped what I was doing to provide what he needed. And as I held him, I experienced the wonder of new life in my arms.
That’s the way it is with wonder and awe. It sparks us to turn from our everyday lives and do something different. To act in a way and at times when we might otherwise pass on by. To notice the beauty inbedded in everything.
The Magi in the story of Jesus’ birth were sparked into action because of wonder. They read the scriptures that told his birth, and they noticed the new star that had appeared in the sky. In response, they stopped what they were doing and headed west to see the newborn king.
They could have ignored the signs before them, but they chose not to. Instead they decided to be guided by a star. To find out where it would lead them. To learn what God was doing in Bethlehem. To be a part of God’s redeeming plan.
Yes, these wise people brought gifts to honor the baby. But more important than the gifts given by the Magi are the Gifts that God gave to us in the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Christ.
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT
The fifth verse in “We Three Kings of Orient Are” is:
"Glorious now behold him arise; King and God and sacrifice: Alleluia, Alleluia, sounds
through the earth and skies.
Refrain: O star of wonder, star of light, star with royal beauty bright, westward leading,
still proceeding, guide us to thy perfect light.”
Jesus IS King. Jesus IS God. Jesus IS a sacrifice for us for our sins. And even today, Jesus still leads us to the Perfect Light of God’s redeeming love.
In these next days to Christmas, I invite you to spend some time noticing. Paying attention with wonder and awe to the commonplace, everyday things. You just may discover that they are not so commonplace. Prepare your hearts once again to receive the Christ into your life.
Try to do this each day. Perhaps it's in the quiet of the morning or the last hours before bedtime. Turn off the TV and music. Put your cell phone on silent mode. Ask your family to not interrupt for a little while.
Reflect on a favorite Christmas song or Christmas memory. What makes it so meaningful?
Think back through your day. Where was there beauty or awe and what made it so?
Read the story of the coming of the Magi Matthew 2: 1-18. Reflect on the ways God protected the Magi and the Holy Family.
Jesus the baby has already been born in Bethlehem, and the story continues. Jesus the Christ continues to dwell in all aspects of your life and this world. What wonder! What joy!
Lord of Love and Light, I am in awe at how You show up in my life. Continue to guide me toward Your Light so that each encounter, every created thing will spark awe and wonder for me. Guide me as You have guided so many through the ages, so that my life reflects Your amazing love. Amen.
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