In his book All I Really Need to
Know I Learned in Kindergarten, Robert Fulghum recounts the
following Christmas memory:
One year I didn’t receive many
Christmas cards. One fetid February afternoon this trouble-making
realization actually came to me out of the back room in my head that
is the source of useless information. Guess I needed some reason to
really feel crummy, so there it was. But I didn’t say anything about
it. I can take it. I am tough. I won’t complain when my cheap
friends don’t even care enough to send me a stupid Christmas card. I
can do without love. Right …
[In August he discovered in his
attic a box of Christmas cards he had stacked up to read that past
Christmas. In his Christmas clean-up panic he had closed the box and
hidden it in the attic. He took the cards, invited a neighbor over,
and celebrated Christmas.)
… Just to help, I had put a tape
of Christmas carols on the portable stereo and cranked up the volume.
Here it all was. Angels, snow, Wise Men, candles and pine boughs,
horses and sleighs, the Holy Family, elves and Santa. Heavy messages
about love and joy and peace and goodwill. If that wasn’t enough,
there were all those handwritten messages of affection from my cheap
friends who had, in fact, come through for the holidays.
I cried. Seldom have I felt so bad
and so good at the same time. So wonderfully rotten, elegantly sad,
and melancholy and nostalgic and all. … What can I say? I guess
wonder and awe and joy are always there in the attic of one’s mind
somewhere, and it doesn’t take a lot to set it off. And much about
Christmas is outrageous, whether it comes to you in December or late
August (Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in
Kindergarten, Villard Books: 1989, pp. 89-91). Let’s hear
about that outrageous first Christmas:
In that region
there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their
flock by night. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the
glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But
the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid; for see–I am
bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is
born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is the Messiah, the
Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a child wrapped in
bands of cloth and lying in a manger." 1And suddenly
there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising
God and saying,
Glory to God in
the highest heaven,
and on earth peace among those whom he
When the angels
had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one
another, "Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has
taken place, which the Lord has made known to us." So they went
with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the
manger. When they saw this, they made known what had been told them
about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the
shepherds told them. But Mary treasured all these words and pondered
them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising
God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them (Luke
Have you seen it again this year?
You know, the sentimental Depression-era movie It’s A Wonderful
Life. In the movie George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) gets to see
what life would have been like for his family and his town if he had
never been born. After George sees just how much influence he had on
others, how big a difference his presence made for his community, he
runs through the street filled with the joyful knowledge that his IS
a wonderful life.
Being connected to the world and its
wonders is an essential for a shepherd. To protect their flocks,
shepherds keep their eyes open for fresh water, fierce predators,
tasty grasses, and sneaky thieves.
Shepherds are also star-gazers. It
was the shepherds that imagined the lines between stars, creating and
naming the constellations in the sky. The stars were all so
wonderful that they felt compelled to name them and give them the
stories that would distinguish them forever. Those star-gazers eyes
were turned toward the heavens when something more wonderful appeared
– Luke tells us it was the glory of the Lord.
The glorified presence of the angel
brought terror to the shepherds. A word of calm allowed the
shepherd’s wondering to overcome their fear. "Let us go now
to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord
has made known to us.”
Little wonder, then, that those
shepherds — those who spent so much time wondering about the
wonderful heavens — are the ones chosen to receive that night’s
But what the angel describes as a
wonder takes special eyes. It takes a special spirit to discern as
wonderful the news that "you will find a child wrapped in bands
of cloth and lying in a manger." In the world’s eyes this
wasn’t an extraordinary event. It was just another baby, born to
poor parents, in less than perfect circumstances.
What’s your capacity for wonder?
Can you stack it up against the shepherd’s capacity for wonder?
- It took the shepherd’s faith in
God’s wonderfulness to connect this baby to the angelic promise that
he was "a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord."
- It took these shepherds’ faith in
God’s wonderfulness to transfer the wonders from the heavens to the
reality in the stable.
- It took the shepherd’s faith in
God’s wonderfulness to see that this newest miracle of birth was the
greatest miracle of all: a Savior, the Messiah, the Lord.
The wonder of the angels’ words, the
wonder of the baby’s presence as foretold was that they both revealed
"the wonder that God loves me" and God loves you. This was
the message of one of the great revival hymns of the 20th century
called “The Wonder of It All.”
wonder of sunset at evening,
the wonder as sunrise I see;
the wonder of wonders that thrills my soul
is the wonder that God
O, the wonder of
it all! The wonder of it all!
Just to think that God loves me.
O, the wonder of it all! The wonder of it all!
Just to think
that God loves me.
wonder of springtime and harvest,
the sky, the stars, the sun;
But the wonder of wonders that thrills my soul
is a wonder
that’s only begun.