Posted by: Nathan | December 22, 2006

Remembering the Amazement

It’s very easy to feel jaded by Christmas, and a lot of people do. The main issue is tied to money; everyone feels obligated to spend a “decent amount” of money on each person on squi’s list, but most people don’t have the money to do so. This causes frustration, stress and anger at the sense of obligation. I don’t have a solution to this problem; I do believe in giving gifts and the importance of having a season in which giving is emphasized, but I also think steps can be taken to eliminate the sense of obligation.

In any case, I’ve wanted to write a post called “Saving Christmas” for a while now, but I can’t figure out a way to save it for everyone. For me, the deepest meaning is found in the birth of Christ, but not all are believers. Family? Some people have terrible family situations. Friends? They can let you down. Food or gifts? Too materialistic. So instead of saving Christmas as a holiday, I decided instead to remember the amazement.

It started when J and I read The Best Christmas Pageant Ever; the way Robinson allows the mischevious Herdmans to make the story live and breathe anew awakened me to how mundane the Nativity story has become to me: Bethlehem, star, stable, shepherds, wise men—I’ve heard it a million times. And to be honest, my NIV translation seems prosaic* about this miraculous event, like it’s telling the story of Jesus going to the grocery store on a Wednesday. But that’s not how it was.

Let’s start with Mary. She’s at home doing the equivalent of vaccuuming or washing the dishes and then…BOOM! Angel in her living room. What if you were driving to work on a Monday and suddenly Gabriel was on your passenger’s seat? Naturally, you’d be terrified. Mary must have been scared too because the first thing out of Gabriel’s mouth is “Do not be afraid.” She, a random Hebrew woman, has been chosen by YAHWEH to bear His Son and bring salvation to all humanity forever. Wow. All of that makes Mary’s “I am the Lord’s servant” all the more impressive.

What about Joseph? His fianceé is pregnant, and he knows it’s not his child. Mary could have been stoned for that crime, but Joseph’s going to divorce her quietly. So he’s dreaming about the market or something and then FLASH!! Angel of the Lord saying what’s conceived in Mary is from the Holy Spirit and that Jospeh should name his child Jesus “because he will save his people from their sins.” Joseph stays with Mary.

And then there’s the familiar, lowly shepherds. They’re watching their sheep, just like every night in spring. Maybe they’re chatting with each other or joking or just sitting there when the night sky is rent open and the angel of the Lord is saying “Do not be afraid” again. Then, this angel lays out to these common shepherds God’s divine plan to erase the power of hell and death with the birth of one boy who’s wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger of all places. After that, the sky explodes into blinding, glorious light as the mulitiudes of angels blot out the stars singing the praises of the Almighty. I think I’d run to Bethelhem to see the Child too.

The Magi have their place in the story too, but they’re a long way from Israel (Babylon maybe?). They know their history and prophecies, and they know astrology; when they see that star, they saddle up their camels and book it east. There’s only one question on their mind: “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews?” Herod doesn’t know, but his scribes do, so these Gentile kings head to Bethlehem with priceless gifts to worship a child.

And then there’s one of Jesus’ names: Immanuel, which translates “God with us.” We all know what it means now, but what an awe-inspiring idea “Immanuel” embodies. God Almighty, transcendent, perfect, pure, holy, loving, and peaceful has come via a baby to a world of broken, petty, selfish, sinful, ignorant, and apathetic humans. It’s almost too much to believe.

It’s amazing: the events and to whom they happen, the supernatural occurrences, and the way a child captivates anyone who hears about him. It could only come from the Mind of God. I hope this story never grows old for me, and I long for the humility of Mary, the obedience of Joseph, the joy of the shepherds, and the passion of the Magi. This year, I want to  celebrate the unfathomable love of the Savior and the glory of the Incarnation. Merry Christmas.

*Naturally, I shouldn’t foist my 21st Century sensibility on a 1st Century text, but I’m just being honest.


  1. Wow. Thanks for helping Mom and me remember the amazement. We finished “Best Christmas Pageant Ever” a few days ago and loved it just as much this time as ever. Thanks for taking the high road with the Christmas story. Can’t wait to welcome you two back to your home state for most of Christmastide.



  2. That was an excellent post, man. I enjoyed it. It’s too bad that you’re coming back to much less beautiful, picturesque scenery…it’s been raining and fogging for two days now…but it’ll be good to have you around. Plus we have the ultimate showdown in fantasy football (donald driver, solid 18 point start for the beavers…)!! It’s gunna be a throwdown!! I still don’t know who to start at quarterback…see you soon man!

    p.s. – looking into lift ticket deals for the end of january might not be a bad idea…nothing’s for sure…but start searching for discounts.

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