Tag Archives: Hidden Christmas

Monday Morning Moment – Word for the Year 2023 – Wonder

In the early days of a new year, we give pause to possibilities of what’s ahead. Besides gym memberships, weight loss programs, and aspirations to spend more time with family, we could use a word of encouragement to move us forward. Debbie Macomber‘s One Perfect Word gives a strong case for choosing one word for the whole year. A word to dissect, and meditate on, and to make real in both our thoughts and walks of life. One Perfect Word. For the year.

For the last several days, I’ve been thinking about what word for 2023. Two years ago, I chose “compassion”. This past year, it was joy. Both of those words did inspire both thoughts and actions that elevated my life…and hopefully that of others.

This year, after praying and meditating, I chose the word “wonder”. The definition of this word is to be awe-inspired, to marvel, and to be surprised, even astonished. My little grandchildren have taught me great lessons on wonder as so much around them seems miraculous…and it truly is, when you think about it.

Instead of filling my thoughts and speech on the brokenness of this world, I will choose to wonder at the beauty around us, even in the hard. Wonder won’t be at the expense of responding to those in need, but I will study on how to see the wonder. For example, the wonder of a God who is both merciful and just. The wonder that we can actually come alongside someone and be a help…that we can forgive an offense…that we can give hope in a seemingly hopeless situation.

How does one decide on a word to cover a whole year? It might be an intentional decision or completely serendipitous? For me, it was through thinking of what might be lacking in my life and asking God to confirm. I thought the word would be perseverance, but in prayer and a series of rapid-fire circumstances, the word “wonder” came into focus. It seemed I would hear or see the word everywhere.

In the next few days, a friend and I will be studying Tyler Staton‘s book Praying Like Monks, Living Like Fools: An Invitation to the Wonder and Mystery of Prayer. Another example is how during this Christmas season, the song I Wonder as I Wander stayed with me for days.

Christmas itself saturates us with wonder as we look deeply into what happened with the birth of Christ. What it must have been like for Mary when she realized the full weight of the Angel’s message to her of bearing the Messiah! For the lowly shepherds being the first to receive the good news of his birth. For us having the incredible invitation to be restored to an eternal relationship with the Lord! Whew!

In “O Little Town of Bethlehem” we sing, “O holy child of Bethlehem, descend to us, we pray; cast out our sin, and enter in, be born in us today.” It’s a bold image, but quite right. Every Christian is like Mary. Everyone who puts faith in Christ receives, by the Holy Spirit, “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27, emphasis mine). We should be just as shocked that God would give us—with all our smallness and flaws—such a mighty gift. And so no Christian should ever be far from this astonishment that “I, I of all people, should be loved and embraced by his grace!” I would go so far as to say that this perennial note of surprise is a mark of anyone who understands the essence of the Gospel. What is Christianity? If you think Christianity is mainly going to church, believing a certain creed, and living a certain kind of life, then there will be no note of wonder and surprise about the fact that you are a believer. If someone asks you, “Are you a Christian?” you will say, “Of course I am! It’s hard work but I’m doing it. Why do you ask?” Christianity is, in this view, something done by you—and so there’s no astonishment about being a Christian. However, if Christianity is something done for you, and to you, and in you, then there is a constant note of surprise and wonder. John Newton wrote the hymn: Let us love and sing and wonder, Let us praise the Savior’s name. He has hushed the law’s loud thunder, He has quenched Mount Sinai’s flame. He has washed us with his blood He has brought us nigh to God. See where the love and wonder comes from—because he has done all this and brought us to himself. He has done it. So if someone asks you if you are a Christian, you should not say, “Of course!” There should be no “of course-ness” about it. It would be more appropriate to say, “Yes, I am, and that’s a miracle. Me! A Christian! Who would have ever thought it? Yet he did it, and I’m his.” Tim Keller, Hidden Christmas: the Surprising Truth Behind the Birth of Christ

I’m thinking God is preparing me for a year full of wonder…with eyes fixed on Him.

How about you? Is there a word…one perfect word you would desire as a focus in 2023?

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Photo Credit: He Reads Truth

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Worship Wednesday – Hark the Herald Angels Sing – the Gospel in a Song

Advent for this year has come and gone with the glorious ending being Christmas Day. I haven’t highlighted very much of this season because we were immersed in the moments. Hopefully, though, writing about this month-long celebration would be a joy…may the words find their place on the screen. Even as I write this Wednesday Worship following Christmas, it is New Year’s Eve…days later, that I will finish.

No rush, right? While many have their Christmas tree down and the trimmings of this Christmas stowed away…we are continuing to squeeze all the delicious good out of this season, now celebrating the 12 Days of Christmas (Christmastide).

The 12 Days of Christmas: the Ultimate Guide to Christmastide – Tai French

In all the activities leading up to Christmas, some of the wonder escaped me…the post-Christmas quiet has been a second blessing…to reflect, not just on this past year, but, on all the beauty of Christ’s coming.

A couple of nights ago, we finally watched A Charlie Brown Christmas – a tradition every year. Charlie Brown expresses (to his friend, Linus) his exasperation in how Christmas has become so commercialized. Wondering at the meaning of Christmas. Linus comes to his aid, quoting from the Scripture, the wondrous account of the Christ child being born “unto you”. Unto you…to the world, but, in particular, to each one of us.

Photo Credit: Imgflip

That short scene in the film is exquisite, cutting through all the clutter never meant for Christmas. Because of Linus delivering truth, dropping his blanket as he spoke, his friend Charlie Brown’s thinking cleared. Clarity was restored…even joy.

The film finishes triumphantly with all the kids singing “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”.

In the intro to his beautiful book Hidden Christmas: the Surprising Truth Behind the Birth of Christ, author, theologian Tim Keller‘s writes about this widely familiar song “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”:

Let’s ask some questions of the famous Christmas carol “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”…Who is Jesus? He is “everlasting Lord,” who from “highest heaven” comes down to be the “offspring of the virgin’s womb.” What did he come to do? His mission is to see “God and sinners reconciled.” How did he accomplish it? He “lays his glory by,” that we “no more may die.” How can this life be ours? Through an inward, spiritual regeneration so radical that, as we have seen, it can be called “the second birth.” With brilliant economy of style, the carol gives us a summary of the entire Christian teaching…One season a year hundreds of millions of people, if they would take the trouble to ask these kinds of questions, would have this same knowledge available to them. To understand Christmas is to understand basic Christianity, the Gospel….one moment of the year when our secular society and the Christian church are, to a degree, thinking about the same thing.Tim Keller, Hidden Christmas: the Surprising Truth Behind the Birth of Christ

As we prepare to enter the new year, we take the truth of Christmas along with us. In wonder at how God would draw so near to us…to reveal himself to us in ways we can understand…to demonstrate a love for us wholly unrestrained. Not surprising the angels filled the sky with song that incredible night.

Worship with me to Charles Wesley‘s glorious anthem (verse 5 is included, though rarely sung).

  1. Hark! The herald angels sing,
    “Glory to the newborn King;
    Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
    God and sinners reconciled!”
    Joyful, all ye nations rise,
    Join the triumph of the skies;
    With th’angelic host proclaim,
    “Christ is born in Bethlehem!”
    • Refrain:
      Hark! the herald angels sing,
      “Glory to the newborn King!”
  2. Christ, by highest Heav’n adored;
    Christ the everlasting Lord;
    Late in time, behold Him come,
    Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
    Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
    Hail th’incarnate Deity,
    Pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
    Jesus our Emmanuel.
  3. Hail the heav’nly Prince of Peace!
    Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
    Light and life to all He brings,
    Ris’n with healing in His wings.
    Mild He lays His glory by,
    Born that man no more may die;
    Born to raise the sons of earth,
    Born to give them second birth.
  4. Come, Desire of nations, come,
    Fix in us Thy humble home;
    Rise, the woman’s conqu’ring Seed,
    Bruise in us the serpent’s head.
    Now display Thy saving pow’r,
    Ruined nature now restore;
    Now in mystic union join
    Thine to ours, and ours to Thine.
  5. Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface,
    Stamp Thine image in its place:
    Second Adam from above,
    Reinstate us in Thy love.
    Let us Thee, though lost, regain,
    Thee, the Life, the inner man:
    Oh, to all Thyself impart,
    Formed in each believing heart.*

*Lyrics to Hark the Herald Angels Sing – Charles Wesley

Bible Verses to Hark the Herald Angels Sing

The Story Behind “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” – Josh Longanecker

Advent – Welcoming the Savior at Christmastime – Holding a Place for His Coming – Deb Mills

YouTube Video – Hark the Herald Angels Sing/King of Heaven (Lyric Video) – Paul Baloche [Official]

Not celebrate?

Your burden is too great to bear?
Your loneliness is intensified during this Christmas season?
Your tears have no end?

Not celebrate?

You should lead the celebration!
You should run through the streets
to ring the bells and sing the loudest!
You should fling the tinsel on the tree,
and open your house to your neighbors, and call them in to dance!
For it is you above all others who know the joy of Advent.
It is unto you that a Savior is born this day,
One who comes to lift your burden from your shoulders,
One who comes to wipe the tears from your eyes.
You are not alone,
for He is born this day to you. Ann Weems