Wonder is a word we commonly and correctly associate with Christmas. With all the planning and expectations associated with the season, Christmas is still met with awe and excitement. The sense of wonder is even more intense for followers of Christ who anticipate knowing Christ better and discovering new facets of him through the anticipation and celebration of his birth. Here are some thoughts about Christmas from Christians across the country and beyond.
Evelyn McCrickard Cronin (Virginia)
Evelyn, a member of Fairmont Christian Church in Mechanicsville, is a speaker and camp dean at Oak Hill Christian Camp. She reflects on the image of Christ through a key player in the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ birth. “There is such a sense of awe surrounding the Christmas story,” she writes. “For instance, take Mary. Not long ago I was asked to sing Mary Did You Know? and then speak to a group of school children as Mary, all grown up and looking back on her time with Jesus.
“Can you imagine how Mary felt? I’ve tried to put myself in her place while singing Amy Grant’s popular song, Breath of Heaven. ‘I am waiting in a silent prayer. I am frightened by the load I bear. In a world as cold as stone, must I walk this path alone? Be with me now.’ I’ve known pregnant teenagers who were scared, overwhelmed, and alone—and that was in an era where they wouldn’t be stoned for adultery. But God used her obedience and blessed the world.
“Christmas means that I—my normal, imperfect, exhausted, overcommitted self—can find favor with God. He sent Jesus in the form of a perfectly normal baby to save me from my sins.
“The wonder and majesty of it all just slays me year after year. It never gets old.”
Paula Manning and Marc Montgomery (Tennessee)
Paula Manning is a youth sponsor extraordinaire, teacher of the Fidelis Sunday school class, and choir member at First Christian Church, Elizabethton. When she ponders Christmas and how it manifests the character of Christ, she marvels at the fact that “God desired relationship with us (me) to the extent that he would leave the splendor of Heaven to come to earth and live in poverty and humility. And as if that weren’t enough for Christ to make such a bold statement, his character demonstrates a consistent desire to be with us, not just for 33 years more than 2,000 years ago, but even now through this season. Christmas reminds me that God is with me (Immanuel) every minute, every day. Even beyond that, Christ’s coming shows the furthest extension of his love. Christmas is the beginning of the journey to the cross.”
Marc Montgomery works in information technology at Milligan College, plays dobro in the worship band, and is a member of Grandview Christian Church, Johnson City. “I want to believe that every Sunday—no, every day—should be like Christmas, that all who call themselves Christians should be overwhelmed with good cheer in light of the hope we have. That we should be as concerned for our neighbors’ well-being each day just as Scrooge was after his Paul-like conversion. As much as I believe that our advent calendars should extend 365 days, I’m a realist. I know that I and the rest of the church at large are far too forgetful of that hope and the gift of Christ in our daily lives. To me the symbols, traditions, and cultural expectations of Christmas are a necessary annual reminder for us to pivot toward the merciful, generous, and joyful lives we are called to.”
Lou Surgenor (Ohio)
Lou and her husband, Mike, have ministered for more than 30 years in Kentucky, Florida, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Ohio. Her family seeks every year to make the Christmas story as real as possible. “Christmas to our family means going to a working barn on Christmas Eve, feeling the cold, listening to the sheep stomp their hooves in annoyance, smelling the hay, and laying Bethany’s (who is now grown and has a child of her own) baby doll in the manger as we read the Christmas story.” The “earthiness” of their tradition echoes the very realness of Christ’s sacrifice in the image of entering the world as an infant among animals and dirt.
Kirsten Fakes (Missouri)
Kirsten and her husband Bryan serve Connection Christian Church in Dardenne Prairie. To her, the season of Christ’s birth “feels different” and makes her feel “more alive than any other time of year.” What a delightful sentiment and reminder of what Christ in our lives can do for us every day! It is a season that she absolutely loves and is “a time for church family and my family to be together and to give to each other and to celebrate our best gift, Jesus.” The community that God calls us to is united by the giving and celebrating of Christ during this time of year.
Darren Dickson (Oregon)
Darren Dickson is a former associate pastor and member of Roseburg First Christian Church in Roseburg. He is still in awe “that God could express his love for his people in such an incredible way as sending his Son to come and save a people who constantly turn their backs on him.” To Darren, Christmas represents “the unexplainable joy that we can have from a God who lavishes his love on his children, forgives their sins, and gives us the opportunity year after year to celebrate the fact that he sent his Son through a virgin birth to come and do the incredible feat of taking on all of our sins and doing away with them once and for all. If that isn’t the best Christmas present, I don’t know what is!”
Meredith McKinney (Edinburgh, United Kingdom)
Meredith (originally from Tennessee) serves through Christian Missionary Fellowship with Roots, a Globalscope campus ministry team in Edinburgh, United Kingdom. To her, Christmas is “the pinnacle of Advent, the long-awaited birth of the promised Savior.” She uses the season to prepare her heart as Christ prepared to enter the world. And when the time of celebration comes, she “spends time doing what’s important—being with loved ones, whether that’s biological family or chosen family, or both.”
Across the Country and Around the World
May the wonder of Christmas stay in our hearts throughout all the seasons of our lives. May we always anticipate our time with Christ, appreciate the joy of being loved by God, feel more alive through Christ, embrace the reality of his presence, use our traditions to sustain our good cheer, reflect the humility of Christ, and, like Mary, may we treasure up all these things and ponder them in our hearts.
Meg Foster is a high school Theatre teacher and an adjunct instructor of French at Milligan College.