The Wonder of Christmas

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | Dec 04, 2010

"Christmas renews our youth by stirring our wonder. The capacity for wonder has been called our most pregnant human faculty, for in it are born our art, our science, our religion."
Ralph Sockman

This year I have been thinking about the emotions of Christmas. And one of the emotions which always dominates this time of the year is the wonder of Christmas. I remember reading a cartoon years ago of a scene depicting one shepherd sitting on a rock quite bored and saying, "Nothing really exciting happens around here," while the others are beginning to see the bright light of angels. 

Wonder can surprise any of us. Nothing restores the wonder to a family like a new baby. When Noah our grandson was born, a new sense of wonder entered the entire Meyer family. Ever since he arrived, his whole world was framed by wonder. 

New sounds. New tastes. New steps. New words. New likes. New dislikes. Whether he was dipping French fries into ketchup for the first time or dancing up and down to a new tune, Noah's world is filled with wonder. 

But wonder goes way beyond the innocent and new experiences of a child. Life itself displays wonder around every corner. Music creates wonder. In Roots Alex Haley describes the slave Kunta Kinte driving his master to the big plantation house. He parked the buggy and settled down to wait. He heard the music of the white folks as they danced. From the slave quarters came other music. 

He got out of the buggy and went to the cabin where he found a man playing African music. He remembered hearing that music as a child. That man had come from his region in Africa, and they talked of home and the past. When he returned to his cabin that night, he laid on the floor and wept, for he almost forgot who he was and where he was from. The music had rekindled his memory, and he was restored to an attitude of amazement concerning his roots. 

Travel creates wonder. I am always deeply awed and filled with wonder when I visit a place for the first time. Just landing in the airport and taking that first drive in a new place does that for me. The buildings and the food and the language and the people and the landscape do that for me. This year Evie and I visited India and even though it was six months ago and we were only there a week, India has still not left us. 

Gardening creates wonder. A simple walk among the flowers with their shapes and colors and textures creates this emotion in me. Whether I am walking through the well manicured flowers of Longwood Gardens or I just step outside our farmhouse to my own country garden, my heart fills up quickly with wonder. 

Life itself creates wonder. As Thieh Nhat Hanh has observed, "People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle in which we don't even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black curious eyes of a child, our own two eyes. All is a miracle." 

We could go on with the pieces of life which bring wonder into our lives. But, there is something about Christmas that brings that emotion to an even higher level. Handel H. Brown suggests, "Christmas has lost its meaning for us because we have lost the spirit of expectancy. We cannot prepare for an observance. We must prepare for an experience." 

How easy it is, "For many of us, sadly," as Burton Hills has said, "the spirit of Christmas is 'hurry.'" As we all navigate this busy and blessed time of the year, may we never lose the wonder of it all. 

Think about it.

Dr. Don Meyer is President of 
Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, PA 
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