Friday, December 14, 2007

Christmas and Wonder

I hope that you are filled with wonder at this time of the year. There are two definitions of wonder. One is an emotion aroused by something awe-inspiring, astounding or marvelous. The other definition is a feeling of puzzlement or doubt. I pray you approach the holiday season with that first meaning and not the second. In the December 24th issue of the Christian Science Sentinel one writer says it this way: "To me, this quality, whether expressed by a child or an adult, indicates a thought filled with appreciation". Those who study and practice Christian Science agree with another idea she includes in the article, wonder-filled trust in God brings complete healing.

One of our local radio stations plays Christmas music beginning on Thanksgiving day and all the way to Christmas day. I listen to the carols all day long. It would be difficult to say which one is my favorite because I love so many of them. My son Jim played some new ones he found on the internet when I was over there yesterday baking cookies with grandson Sean. Some are so joyous you just have to smile when you hear them. Some are so powerful you just have to be still and listen, like hearing Julie Andrews sing Hark, the herald angels sing. This year I feel a special connection to Josh Groban's beautiful song from The Polar Express, "Believe". One lyric is 'you have everything you need if you just believe'. If you watch that Christmas special it is all about the sense of wonder.

This morning I was led to look closer at one of the Christmas carols that is found in our hymnal. Hymn 222 is O Little Town of Bethlehem. Yesterday I got an email from a Bible resource and research site. Their lead article was questioning where Jesus was born, Bethlehem or Nazareth. Eminent Bible scholars had written opposing opinions. As I read the words of that carol I can picture the scene. It filled me with wonder and also made me wonder who wrote it. So I looked it up in our hymnal concordance and notes book. The author was Phillips Brooks (1835-1893) and he is described as 'the most celebrated contemporary of Mary Baker Eddy during her foundational work in Boston'. To be honest, I never heard of him, but I am going to try to track down the biography referred to written by Bishop Lawrence, Brooks' successor. It begins with Phillips, at the age of 20, 6'4" tall, seeing himself as a failure after trying to teach boys in the Boston Latin School. His mother then encouraged him to take his first communion and then go on to divinity school. He is called to the Church of the Advent in Philadelphia. In 1865 the nation mourned Abraham Lincoln. Brooks' eloquent obituary was published. He spent Christmas of 1865 in Bethlehem, in Palestine and two years later a friend urged him to write a Christmas carol. He eventually became Bishop of Massachusetts. He said that prayer is not conquering God's reluctance, but availing ourselves of His willingness.

Today I will be thinking about wonder and keeping my sense of appreciation active.

Go in wondering peace.

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