“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law” (Galatians 4:4 ESV).
Is there anything more remarkably beautiful than seeing the glistening eyes of a child filled with wonder as she looks upon a Christmas tree or as she begins to unwrap presents on Christmas morning? Is there anything more homey and comfortable than gathering together with your family before a roaring fire, Appalachian garland gracing the mantle, and Pennsylvania candles in the windows, and the whole domestic, holiday scene illuminated by the family Christmas tree? Well, maybe one could add all of that plus the family watching Bing Crosby in The Bells of St. Mary’s or Going My Way? Or perhaps watching Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life? Or the soul-warming aroma of ginger bread baking as you wipe away yuletide tears as Irene Dunne and Carey Grant’s characters’ lives spin around before you in Christmas melodrama in Penny Serenade?
Those times are filled with wonder. Wonder is something that we all long for and that’s why we long for Christmastime, perhaps more than any other time in our year. To say that it is a special time is to state the most obvious thing in the world. The wonder that we long for is somehow experienced in those days. But why?
I’m reminded of the poetry of the great Jewish theologian Abraham Joshua Heschel as he wrote, “I longed for wonder and he gave it.”
Yet the wonder can be fleeting. There is nothing so empty as the feeling — the wonder less feeling — that follows Christmastime. I have to admit that even a pastor who deals with the glorious words of Scripture that gives meaning to Christmas can fall into that same black hole as anyone else. And that happens whenever the wonder of Christmas is detached from the wonder of the person and the genuine story of Christmas. Like a detached retina it causes the eye of the soul to lose focus, and to eventually lose sight. For that reason, I believe we need to have a strong theological grounding of the Incarnation— the better word for what happened on Christmas, when God became man, and came to live the life we couldn’t live and die the death which should’ve been ours. There is something about the theological depth of “the fullness of time…” which brings an enduring wonder. It is not that things like It‘s a Wonderful Life movies and Christmas trees and the glistening joy in a child’s eye on Christmas morning are in any way wrong. Far from it. It is just that if we want to have that wonder to endure it must have a context—a theological connection—to the truthfulness of the event and to God’s revelation. It is for this reason that I want to examine the passage before us.
The passage before us is not one that is not often the text for Christmas Eve sermons or is inscribed on family Christmas greeting cards. Yet, within that one verse in Galatians 4:4, where the apostle Paul writes to the Galatians about the Incarnation, we have an invitation from God in his special revelation, the Bible, to re attach the retina of our souls, and to see, and to know the wonder of wonders in the Christmas story. We have the opportunity to ask for wonder and to receive it and never lose it.
I believe that this passage can fling open wide an enchanted door of glory to invite us in to experience the wonder of Christmas—a wonder that will transcend all other wonders and become the very thing you were made to be.
To be continued in the next Sunday in Advent.
[Follow the Advent series on "The Wonder of Christmas" each Monday and Thursdays at 8:30 AM EST on "Faith for Living" (Channel 378, the NRB Network on DirectTV), or at faithforlivingtv.com or the Faith for Living YouTube channel: FaithForLivingRTS; or download the Faith for Living App for iPhone or Android at http://appfinder.lisisoft.com/app/faith-for-living.html]