Ahhhh or Awe?
I love Christmas! As soon as the smell of turkey is out of the house I’m ready to move on to Christmas. It is such a sensuous time of year. The smell of almond and ginger, the tinkle of bells, the warmth of the fire and the sight of twinkly tree lights and glowing candles bring ohhhhs and ahhhhs to my lips! I enlist my older grandsons to help arrange my Dicken’s Village. We plug in the lights and scatter the polyester to mimic the snow that must come before Christmas. In recent years I have put up a faux tree in the family room. Although it doesn’t smell like pine and it’s branches don’t bounce with life when the cat paws at the bottom it allows me to have a beautiful tree the entire season without the mess of needles on the floor. At school, children giggle as they talk about Santa and secret wishes. Ohhhh………Ahhhhh!
These are manmade ahhhhs which are fun but temporary. When the decorations are taken down in January they disappear. There is another kind of awe. It is defined by psychologist Dacher Keltner as “the feeling of being in the presence of something vast or beyond human scale, that transcends our current understanding of things.” This is the awe that we feel when we see the birth of our own child or the rainbow after a devastating storm. True awe brings us together, refocusing our attention from me to us as we experience a common phenomenon. We stop to fully take it in. It can change our way of thinking. We can smile with others who share this same moment. Being out in nature, whether in the wilderness or in an urban setting, searching for the unusual and amazing, can change our day. The wonder of a spring flower pushing up through frozen ground, the vast number of stars in the Milky Way or the intricate work of a spider web can fill us with awe. Doctors believe this same feeling can lower our blood pressure and make us healthier and happier people.
In Luke 2 we read Luke’s account of the Christmas story. Read through the story and look for moments of awe. We meet the shepherds watching over their flocks of sheep. In verse 11 an angel appears to them and says, “for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord….(vs. 13) And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!’ ” Surely that was an awesome sight, one which still moves us today as we read the story and imagine the angels. The angel told the shepherds to go to Bethlehem to find the child. They “went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in the manger.” (vs. 16) How amazing that must have seemed to them! The babe was there just as the angel said it would be. Likewise, the wisemen followed the star from the east. They arrived in Bethlehem and saw the star shining over the stable. Matthew 2:10 tells us, “When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy; and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother and they fell down and worshiped him.” These are some of the moments that fill all of us with awe, bringing us together with one focus on Jesus, the Gift of God’s love. This is the gift of Christmas that slows us down, makes us think, and allows us to live happier lives because of this awesome gift of love.
Enjoy your Christmas oohs and ahhhs this December but focus on the AWESOME story of Jesus’ birth. It is the awe that doesn’t go away when the tree comes down in January. This is the story that can calm our anxious thoughts and bring us together as Christians to focus on Christ not us.