Have you lost the wonder?
The uncertainty of the last year, the fear of wading through unchartered territory and the tension that has strained relationships has wearied us. It’s so tiring to face endless new challenges. Even those of us who are naturally optimistic have had dark moments. Despair, sadly, has entered so many homes.
As Christmas season is upon us, my mind has turned to the familiar themes of wonder, hope and blessing. I don’t particularly feel much of these emotions right now.
I am reminded of the story of Hagar in Genesis 16. Here is a woman who is impregnated to provide a child for another woman, is mistreated and runs away. Picture a pregnant woman aimlessly wandering around the desert, threatened by wild animals and local caravans, without a plan or provisions. Her situation was clearly desperate. Hagar must have felt hopeless and helpless. We can assume she felt isolated.
But Hagar’s story is one of wonder, hope and blessing! At her lowest point, God encounters Hagar in a powerful way. Though Hagar has been used by others, God calls her by name because God sees Hagar and knows of her suffering; God greatly values her. God blesses Hagar with a promise for the future of the child she bears. And in wonder and amazement that God has visited her, Hagar bestows a name upon God— “The One Who Sees Me.”
Hagar’s story gives me hope. I’ve struggled with the realization that my life today lacks the emotions of wonder and blessing this Christmas. And I really don’t feel much hope. After all the uncertainty and disappointment of the last year, I think I am actually resisting hope altogether.
Then I recall that it was in Hagar’s darkest moment that God appeared to her and called her by name. This incredible encounter with God happened in the midst of great struggle and unfair treatment.
May we too encounter God’s presence and hear God’s voice clearly in the midst of our challenges. May we experience the power that brought Christ to us in human form. May we know the peace and joy that surpasses our circumstances. May our hearts be filled with the knowledge that God loves us deeply and cares about our needs and is making a way forward for us.
May our faith be stirred to believe that every valley will be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground will become level, the rugged places a plain.
This is the wonder, hope and blessing we find in the Christmas story. Mary, the mother of Jesus, also encounters God in a powerful, life-changing moment. Did the announcement of a coming child present uncertainty, unchartered territory, and relationship tension? Of course. So how can Mary’s story speak to our similar situations?
The angel announces the wonder that Mary is highly favoured, and that God is with her. This incredible declaration is for us, too, who are highly favored by God and live in the presence of the Lord!
The angel confirms that the Holy Spirit would come upon Mary and the power of God would protect her. The Holy Spirit is the hope of the Christmas story and our story. We must hold on to the hope that all things are possible with God and that the work of the Holy Spirit is still being accomplished in the world today and our personal situations.
And the blessedness of Mary is for us. Jesus invites us to partake in the blessing upon Mary when we “hear the word of God and obey it” (Lk 11:27-28). God has made a way for us to impact that world beyond all we can ask or imagine, to have a legacy for many generations, simply if we will lead lives of faithful obedience to God.
Finally, the angel concludes: “No word from God will ever fail.” Can we hold on to the promises of God and allow them to direct our lives? Mary did. As a young woman, she believed the message from the angel, and her entire life was defined by the calling and mission to bear Christ—to bring Christ to the world literally and then to carry on the mission of God by bearing the message of the salvation and life of Christ to the ends of the earth, even after Christ had ascended to Heaven.
Has your heart recaptured a bit of the wonder, blessing and hope of Christmas as you contemplate Mary’s and Hagar’s story? Keep letting the promises of God restore and revive you.
May you become increasingly aware of the wonder, blessing and hope God has for you, and may the awareness transform your life this Christmas season.