And when the demon had been cast out, the mute man spoke. And the crowds marveled, saying, “Never was anything like this seen in Israel.” But the Pharisees said, “He casts out demons by the prince of demons.”
– Matthew 9:33 ESV
Our Christmas Eve Service theme is “WONDER”. I thought for the next few weeks I would try and prep you a little for what we expect will be a wonderful (sorry I couldn’t help myself) night together as a community of faith and with friends and family.
The basic idea of wonder is that of astonishment, to marvel at or the quality of exciting amazement or admiration. It can carry the sense of seeing something unique, something that no one has ever seen before. It also carries the idea of pondering over something because it is simply captivating and you want to treasure it as long as possible. We can even suggest these moments are something miraculous. The idea of Christmas Eve is not to pull of something you have never seen before and leave you overwhelmingly impressed with our service. Our desire is in the middle of season of life that is often cluttered with pressure, expenses, decorations, gifts and so on, we would give an opportunity for us to wonder all over again at the God who is indeed amazing.
One of the greatest privileges in life is watching children be amazed at something. It might be a Christmas gift they desperately wanted, their first toy or even that moment of getting their first pet. Children have an amazing freedom to be amazed and not feel embarrassed about it. The sheer unmitigated, outpouring of pure excitement is one of the greatest joys to watch.
When we get to be an adult we have all but lost the ability to be amazed and wonder at life. Maybe not entirely – If I buy a Christmas present that my wife has been longing for she is really great at showing wonder and amazement – not sure if it is the gift itself or that I actually figured out how to buy something she actually wanted. Anyway, we have seen so many spectacular special effects movies, been jacked up on any number of high-adrenaline experiences, and seen it all, it is easy to become instantly bored with anything no matter how spectacular it is done. Nothing tends to make us wonder anymore, nothing causes us to ponder what we have just seen or heard, nothing catches our heart to be amazed (even secretly) because our heart and mind has been so overstimulated that nothing gets us fired up anymore.
But one aspect of wonder that the Spirit of God will always keep stirring in us is to be amazed at the touch of God on a person’s life. The text above (Luke 9:33) is about Christ freeing a man from demonic possession and by the power of Christ’s word, he is freed from his slavery and doom. Even in cases like this, I have had too many discussion with Christians who claim we should neverbe surprised that God intervenes or does something truly miraculous. The argument is that if we are surprised we lack faith and our surprise reflects our doubt that God would actually do something … yup, there we go again, nothing like sucking the joy out of delighting in the work of God. Let’s just keep a calm, sterile, unimpressed, stoic, and unemotional response to the power of God; I bet God is so impressed with our faith. Some even go a step further. Some Christians find some other reason to complain or criticize those who claim that God has done something in their life. Rather than being excited and glorifying God we critique and criticize those who are celebrating the work of God. We are almost viciously skeptical and we can be as critical as the Pharisees who criticized Jesus.
The other problem that we all have to fight against is familiarity. You know the old saying, “familiarity breeds contempt” which apparently originates with The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. The basic idea is that the longer we know someone or something we become so aware of its faults that we become scornful and disenchanted with them or it. Even the truth of Scripture can simply become a cliché that means nothing to us because we have heard it a hundred times but it makes no difference in my life…we tend to blame God for not doing anything, rather than considering a different problem. Our confession ought to be if we actually applied our lives to truth and experienced God in our obedience we would have fresh, new stories of His amazing grace touching our heart and spirit as powerfully today as Jesus did in delivering the man from a demon.
Maybe the first thing I might suggest as we prepare for our Christmas Eve gathering together is to mentally become like a child to learn all over again how to value, appreciate and celebrate those things that have eternal worth. When you come to a Christmas Eve gathering you are not stepping into a service, but crossing the threshold from the earthly to the realm of heaven to bow in wonder at the Christ who has touched your life.