Pastor Shawn Hannon
Hope Lutheran Church Arcade, NY
Perhaps the greatest casualty to the age of information has been our ability to wonder. Wonder struggles to exist in a world with answers at our fingertips and eyes locked in on digital crystal balls. But that’s one of the things I love so much about children—especially at Christmas: Wonder abounds.
This year I’ve witnessed it first hand with my daughter, Quinn. A few weeks ago I took her class to a local nursing home where we sang songs and handed out some crafts. We thought we were the visitors, until we received a visitor of our own. Next thing we knew Santa was walking down the hall with a reindeer. And while I’m trying to figure out if the thing was real (and it was!), thirty-six four year-olds were trying to figure out which reindeer Santa brought (It was Dancer). Wonder was everywhere.
Children were wondering what list they were on and what Santa was going to bring them, and a room full of adults were wondering when Dancer was going to leave a present of his own on the floor of the nursing home. Again, children are better at wondering than grown-ups are.
But I don’t think it was meant to be that way. I think we were meant to grow into the wonder of our childhood; not of out of it. Meant to wonder deeper.
We all know the Christmas story. Angels sing and shepherds quake. It’s a busy Bethlehem, but the scene takes place in a lowly barn. But, personally, my favorite part has always been Mary, and I’m not talking about the giving birth part (although I can appreciate how some of you moms out there might find that part the most significant-wink!). The shepherds come and reveal to her what angels told them about Jesus, and then they go and make known all that heard and seen. They leave Mary, and guess what she does. She begins to treasure all their words and ponder them in her heart. The Christmas story ends with Mary in wonder. Looking down on the baby she just delivered and wondering what this baby means, what he’ll do, who he’ll become. Treasuring words and pondering them in her heart.
Mary wondered, and I can’t help but feel like we’re called into the same wonder each Christmas night. But, again, I don’t know when it happened or how, but wonder is much harder for adults than it used to be. We don’t like to wonder. We like to know. Knowing makes us feel like we’re in control. Knowing gives power. Knowing is safe. The problem is knowing is also an illusion sometimes. It comes with blinders and a narrowing perspective of what God is up to in our lives; our perspective. Knowing focuses our mind’s eye on our wants and needs and opinions, but wonder connects us to the divine and sets our minds on the things above. Because instead of knowing exactly who God is and what God does, we instead are invited to wonder and wait for where God will reveal himself to us next.
People ask sometimes if we “know Jesus.” But take it from Mary, faith isn’t about knowing Jesus in our heads, it’s about pondering Jesus in our hearts. I too love the song Mary, Did You Know?” but you know what: No. She didn’t know. But she did wonder.
And this Christmas, may we wonder as well. Wonder what Emmanuel, God with us, means for us. Wonder what the angel meant when he told Joseph to name him Jesus, for he would save his people from their sins. Wonder why God showed up in a little town like Bethlehem in the first place. And wonder where God will show up next.
May we wonder, and in so doing, may we like Mary gaze upon the face of God.
For more inspiration and insights from Pastor Shawn’s past columns, please visit www.jamestowngazette.com and click on the Faith Matters page. The Jamestown Gazette is proud to present our county’s most creative and original writers for your enjoyment and enlightenment.