The Wonder of Christmas
by Rev. Dan White
Weekdays worked like a clock. The kids were bathed, dressed, fed, and out the door for school at 6:45 every morning. Mom and dad left for work at 7 o’clock. Day in and day out, the routine never changed.
Ah, but Sundays, that’s a horse of a different color. No matter how they tried, getting off to church on Sunday was always preceded by a mad rush. The Williams family had the slow-drags, and that old pillow monster kept them in its clutches causing them to sleep late on Sundays.
The Sunday before Christmas that year was particularly chaotic. Richard Williams muttered to himself, “It must be the devil.”
He had vowed on Saturday night that tomorrow would be different. They would all move into their weekday routine. Richard reasoned that if they could leave the house by 7 o’clock each morning, then why couldn’t they get out of the house on time for church?
Fourteen-year old Jennifer took forever in the bathroom. “How long does it take to shower, dry her hair, and put on make-up?” Richard asked his wife. “If she doesn’t come on down, we are going to leave without her!
“And where’s Eddie? I went up there an hour ago to get him up.”
“Well, honey, I guess you need to check on him again,” Janice replied .
By now, Richard was in a real need for some peace and good cheer. He stormed up the stairs to his seventeen-year old son’s room and banged hard on the door. The next door neighbors had to think that an earthquake hit the neighborhood.
“Son! Get out of that bed right now! Why aren’t you ready? It’s the Sunday before Christmas, and you’re not even dressed!”
Eddie stumbled out of bed and cracked open the door. “Dad, you don’t have to yell. Ok, ok, I’m up already, but I’m not going to church.”
Red-faced, Richard tried to compose himself. “Not going? Not going? Yes, you are going! Now get ready! As long as you are under my roof and live in this house, you’re going to church!”
“But dad, it’s just the same old thing. I get nothing out of church. I’m tired and gonna sleep in. Besides, Chris’ parents don’t make him go anymore. They said that he was old enough to decide for himself about church.”
Swallowing hard and trying to be nice, Richard said sarcastically, “Well, I suppose that Chris’ parents will let him decide on whether or not he wants to go to school, too. “
“Dad, I’m not going today. Church is boring. Sing a few hymns, pray, take up an offering, and listen to the same old Christmas story. Big deal! There’s nothing in it for me any more.
“Oh, but there is something in it too,” a voice gently said from the back of the room.
“Eddie, who’s in that room with you? Open the door.”
“Dad, no one is in here but me.”
“Where did that voice come from? You heard it, didn’t you?”
Eddie opened the door for his dad who peered in.
Standing in the corner of Eddie’s room was a bright, angelic form full of good cheer and speaking to them.
“Close the door, and sit down here on the bed. Both of you. I’ve got something to say.
“So Eddie, you’ve outgrown church? It’s boring to you? Not enough pizzazz?
“Well, it’s kinda boring,” Eddie awkwardly replied. “Just the same old thing, you know.”
The angel responded, “Worship is not about pizzazz, Eddie. It’s not entertainment like going to a football game, or a movie, or watching television. Worship is listening for the Lord to speak through His Word, the hymns, and prayer time. Worship is you speaking to the Lord and praising Him through the offering, songs, and prayers. You meet God in worship, and He meets you. Worship is interactive and life changing. It’s not sitting and waiting to be amused.
“And Richard, look at yourself. You’ve worked yourself up into a lather on the Lord’s Day!
“Eddie, do you mind if I talk to you about the wonder of Christmas?” the heavenly being asked.
Eddie rubbed his eyes in disbelief. “This must be a dream or something,” he thought. Then, he looked over at his father who was white-faced in astonishment.
“Uh, uh, I guess it’s all right. Go ahead,” Eddie stammered.
“Good,” the messenger responded.
“That first Christmas was anything but boring. It was filled with the joy of worship because the wonderful Child had been born.
“On a clear, sparkling still and peaceful night with not a cloud in the sky, poor shepherds, the outcasts of society, were fighting sleep trying to stay awake as they watched over their flocks.
“It was another boring, ordinary night doing the same old thing that they had done night after night. Life can be like that. Boring, mundane, routine. Watching sheep is about as exciting as watching paint dry or grass grow.
“But out of that ordinary night came the extraordinary. Angels filled the sky with singing and praise announcing the birth of Jesus. That’s the way God works. You never know when He is going to show up and turn the mundane into the marvelous, the boring into the brilliant.”
Eddie sat wide awake on the edge of his bed listening intently.
The heavenly messenger continued. “I was one of those dispatched that night to sing glory to God and peace on earth. The shepherds could hardly contain themselves from the excitement they felt. They were transformed by the worship we angels brought to the Christ-child. They didn’t walk to Bethlehem. No, they made haste. They ran until they were breathless and then walked as fast as they could. They caught their breath and ran again. No one had to knock on their door and shout for them to get ready to go and worship! They couldn’t hardly wait to get to the barn, stand by the manger, and bow worshipfully before the newborn King.
“After they left that worship service in the barn by the manger, they glorified and praised God for all of the things that they had seen and heard. Their lives were changed forever. That’s what worship, true worship does every time you bow before the Lord God in humility and faith.
“The shepherds couldn’t hold back. They overflowed like an artesian well and told everyone about what they had seen and heard. It was Good News. And the good news of the Gospel overflows in hearts filled from worship. They certainly didn’t murmur and complain about that worship service! True worship is worship in spirit and truth.
“Eddie, have you ever gazed into the night sky? Oh, I know it’s hard to see the stars with all of the light pollution from the city lights. But, have you ever been out camping and just looked up. There’s nothing boring about seeing the infinite universe and the majesty of God’s creation, is it?
“No,” Eddie answered. “There’s nothing boring about that. The stars fascinate me. I love to look into the night sky and wonder about it all.”
The angel responded, “Eddie, I know you are familiar with the second act of worship at Christ’s birth. It’s the story of the Wise Men, the Magi.
“The Magi were Persian astronomers, star gazers. They were men who studied the heavens. They were educated, rich, and a member of royalty. Plus, they looked for the revelation of God on earth.
“At one of their star gazing get-togethers, they noticed something different, something unique in the heavens that they had never witnessed before. Shining brighter than all of the other stars was a new star, a brilliant star in the western sky.
“One said to the others, “This is it! This is what we’ve been waiting for! It is the sign. We must go to where the star leads us.” And, that star would lead them to Bethlehem where Mary and Joseph were staying with their newborn Son, Jesus.
“Now, Eddie, it’s a long way from Persia to Bethlehem. It’s about like the distance between Atlanta and Boston. And, they didn’t have a car or jet to get them there. Traveling at ten miles a day, it took them over three months to arrive at Bethlehem on their camels.
“When the Magi arrived in Jerusalem with their entourage to inquire about the phenomenon they had seen in the night sky, it created quite a stir. Anyone could look at them and know they that were foreigners who were extremely wealthy and aristocratic.
“They asked the wicked King Herod for directions. And by the way, you know how much a man hates to ask for directions, but they were driven to find the answer to the mysterious star that guided them. They swallowed their male pride and asked Herod for help.
“Herod called the Old Testament scholars together who were familiar with the prophecy about the coming Messiah. You see, Herod himself was an Idumaean and not a Jew. He didn’t know about the wonderful truths in the Old Testament.
“The scholars said that according to Scripture, the Promised One would be born in Bethlehem. Herod feigned interest when he told the Magi to come back and tell him where they found the Christ-child. He didn’t want to worship. He wanted to kill the Christ-child because he sensed that the baby would be a threat to his power and position.
“So, the Wise Men left and headed to Bethlehem. Their long journey was almost complete. They only had six more miles to go!”
“Wow!” Eddie interrupted. I didn’t realize that. That’s a long way to go for worship!”
“Not only that,” the gleaming messenger continued, “but they brought an offering - an expensive offering reflecting their status and position.
“As they approached Bethlehem, their hearts beat with excitement. They were soon to be at the end of their lifelong quest - to stand before the Deity. To stand before the God-child. It was almost too much for them.
“Mary brought out the baby. The affluent and royal Magi bowed in humility, reverence, and worshipped the Son of God. They gave Him an offering of gold, frankincense, and myrrh - expensive, very expensive gifts as an act of adoration.
“And Eddie, all I’ve heard from you for the past few days is you telling your mom and dad, “I want, I want. I want this, and I want that for Christmas.”
“Have you ever thought that this is not your birthday? It is the birthday of Jesus. Maybe you should think of giving - like giving yourself to Jesus in worship and praise. Give yourself in service and tell the Good News to others. Give some of your money to the church from your earnings working at the grocery store on Saturdays. Stop being so selfish and self-centered.”
The angel cut his eyes to Eddie’s dad, and he got the message too.
“You see,” the heavenly messenger went on, “everything done in your church at worship is founded on the wonder of worship at that first Christmas. The singing, the offering, the praying, and even the preaching of the Word of God comes out of the worship of the baby Jesus. The church has been worshipping that way for 2,000 years. The Magi and the shepherds, the rich and the poor, the educated and the uneducated, cast-offs like the shepherds and the elite like the Magi - they all come to worship the Lord because the Lord is for all people.
“And another thing, Eddie, when you cut yourself off from worship, you cut yourself off from the church, and that means you cut yourself off from Christ because the true church is the body of Christ and you are part of that body “
The angel vanished leaving Eddie and his father alone in awe and amazement.
As his father left the room, Eddie called out, “Dad, I’ll be down in a minute.”
Richard, Janice, Eddie, and Jennifer got in the car, backed out of the driveway, and headed to church to worship the Lord Jesus, born in a manger, worshipped by peasants and noblemen as has been done for two millennium since that first Christmas.
Sundays were never the same after that angelic visit. There was no more yelling and cajoling to get the family ready for church. No more mad rush to leave the house on time. Everything was as smooth as clockwork on Sundays. They anticipated with eagerness giving their praises to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and encountering the richness of the divine presence in the hymns, prayers, offerings, and exposition of God’s Holy Word. Christ came to them. They came to Christ just like on that first Christmas when the Wonder of Christmas was born.
Rev. Dan White is a free-lance writer and founder and pastor of North Columbia Church, Appling, GA. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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