Hope, Wonder, and Awe

by Reverend Amanda

I always loved the part of the Christmas story when the Wise men came from the East. As a little girl in the Christmas pageant, they were my favorite characters because they wore the crowns, the special costumes, and carried interesting and exotic gifts. But what sticks out to me now is that they saw a star in the distance and just set out from their respective lands and lives trusting that they were going to find something amazing at the end of that light. They trusted that this was a sign from God that something great, something amazing, was about to take place.

I often wonder would any of us in this modern-day world follow such a sign from God with no certainty of what we might find at the end of journey. We live in a society where our heads are mostly down in our electronic devices; devices that tell us where to go, how to get there, and how to avoid traffic. And most often we already know where our goal is going to be, with all our technology we expect to arrive at our final destination: a person’s house, a place of business, a hospital, or a church. But what have we gained during that journey?

The wise men, or magi, saw the star and set out. They didn’t follow maps. Their faces were not looking down. But they looked up into the night skies and journeyed, gaining hope with each step they took that they might meet a miracle from God; a miracle that promised a new world. So tonight I look into our night skies and I am still as awe struck as I was as a young child. A sky so large that it reminds me of how small I am in a universe that is so vast and I feel uneasy, mystified, and I am reminded of what is truly important.

As big as our universe is, I am reassured that to God I am important enough that he took the time to send his only son to bring hope back to our lives. Now I am not being critical of the technology that we have. I use it all. I rely heavily upon those GPS apps. But once and awhile, it is important to put down the phones, the tablets, the computers and other devices. It is important to put them down or turn them off because their noise becomes a distraction from the word of God. They distract from his gentle guidance and the beauty of our world around us.

We live in a world where if we have a question, no matter what it is, all we need is Google. You swipe, type, or voice in your question and sure enough there will be some sort of attempt at an answer. We can find out the history of astronomy, learn the names of the stars and constellations. We can teach ourselves how to use the stars as a map. Something I once tried to learn for a class and failed at terribly. And when we pose google with a question without answers, we get all the message boards where conversation is taking place about those very same questions.

But we pay a price for those instant answers. We lose the openness to feeling God’s presence in the moment. We lose the wonder, the awe, the uneasiness and the feeling of connecting to something more than ourselves. Tonight you heard about the Wise men from the gospel of Matthew, “We have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him”.[1] If we read into this a bit it says they saw the star in the east, knew of God’s promise to the people of Israel, and they were filled with enough hope to travel hundreds of miles over 3 years’ time by camel or foot to be amongst the first to great the new age.

This Christmas Eve, we too can be like the Wise men. We too can place aside our devices and just allow for God to speak his joy, his love, his peace, and his hope to our hearts. Allow for God to remind you this very night what Christmas is really about, “Peace with God, peace with others, and peace in your own heart.”[2] God is still sending us signs and wonders. God is still sending us those beacons to alight hope in our hearts and lives. We just need to make the time to notice them. So as you leave tonight, take a moment before getting into your cars and before going on to your dinners and celebrations and allow for God to wrap you in his peace and hope. Look into the night sky and see what those wise men saw. God’s inspiration beaming down upon a world in need of inspiration, awe, and love. Embrace that love, awe, and hope and allow for it to inspire you to peace in the year to come.

[1] Matthew 2: 2, RSV.

[2] Rick Warren, 21st century.