If you engage a typical American child below the age of, say, eight, and ask him what he would most like to know about Christmas, you might get an answer along these lines: “I wonder how Santa Claus carries enough toys in his sleigh for all the kids in the world.” “I wonder how Santa gets in my house since we don’t have a chimney.” “I wonder how reindeer can fly.” “I wonder why nobody’s ever seen Santa’s house at the North Pole.”
In other words, the sense of wonder children have about Christmas is all about Santa Claus, not Jesus! When the true meaning of Christmas is understood, here are some things I’ve heard children wonder about: “Where did Jesus live before He came to live on earth?” “How could God become a baby?” “What did the baby Jesus come to earth to do?” “Why was Jesus born in a stable with animals instead of in a hospital?”
Those are good questions, whether asked by a child or an adult! Those questions (and some more that are even deeper) represent the sense of wonder that ought to resurface in our minds at this time of year. Yet, too often, we find ourselves so caught up in the busyness of Christmas that we don’t take time to reflect on the wonderment of it all.
The first Christmas was certainly surrounded by wonder:
- Zacharias wondered how he and his elderly wife could give birth to the forerunner of the Messiah (Luke 1:18).
- Mary wondered how it would be possible for a virgin to give birth to a baby (Luke 1:34).
- Joseph wondered why he and Mary had been chosen by God to be the parents of the Messiah (Matthew 1:18–25).
- The shepherds in the fields outside Bethlehem wondered about the angels that appeared in the sky, and what their message meant (Luke 2:13–15).
- Those in Bethlehem wondered about the story that the shepherds were spreading throughout the village (Luke 2:17–18).
- Mary wondered about everything that was happening at the birth of her baby (Luke 2:19).
- Simeon wondered at the blessing of being able, before he died, to see the child-Messiah (Luke 2:25–32).
- Mary and Joseph “marveled” at the words prophesied by Simeon about their baby, Jesus (Luke 2:33–35).
- People in the temple that day no doubt wondered about the words of the prophetess Anna, who spoke about the redemption to come through the baby Jesus (Luke 2:36–38).
- The Magi must have wondered about the meaning of the star they saw, and the baby to whom they brought gifts, and about the dream that warned them against Herod (Matthew 2:1–12).
- Joseph wondered about his dream that warned him to take Mary and Jesus and flee to Egypt to avoid Herod (Matthew 2:13–15).
Those are just the moments of wonder that are recorded for us in Scripture. But think how many more countless moments there must have been among the people of Nazareth and Judea who were witnesses to the first Christmas: A virgin conceiving a child? Angels in the sky? The Messiah born in a stable, sleeping in a manger? Royal officials from the east appearing and worshiping this baby? Prophets in the temple declaring that Jesus was the Messiah, never having seen Him before? King Herod killing scores of male babies? What did it all mean?
What would you and I have thought if we had been living there when the first Christmas took place? How many nights would we have sat up late talking about these events, trying to put two and two together? I can assure you we would have exhibited far more wonder than we do today.
David Jeremiah, The 12 Ways of Christmas (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008).
I have just completed a series of six Christmas Lessons. They are available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription service. For a medium-sized church, lesson subscriptions are only $10 per teacher per year.