Summary: Just scratching the surface of a match can cause it to burst into flame and though that is all we can do with Luke's record, scratch the surface, it is hoped that this will kindle a flame of wonder in our hearts for Christmas.
Typical of last minute Christmas shoppers, a mother was running furiously from store to
store. Suddenly she became aware that the pudgy little hand of her three year old son was no
longer clutched in hers. In a panic she retraced her steps and found him standing with his
little nose pressed flatly against a frosty window. He was gazing at a manger scene. Hearing
his mother's near hysterical call, he turned and shouted with innocent glee: "look mommy!
it's Jesus-baby Jesus in the hay". With obvious indifference to his joy and wonder, she
impatiently jerked him away saying, "we don't have time for that"! On the first Christmas
the problem was, no room. The modern problem is, no time for Jesus.
Few of us, if any, could with confidence cast stones at this mother. The attitude of
impatience grips all of us at some point during the Christmas rush. The problem is really
not the speed of things for our text tells us that the shepherds came to Bethlehem with great
haste. Even on that first Christmas we find the rush of life. But the shepherds had
something that is being lost in our modern Christmas. They had a sense of wonder. No
matter how fast life is people always have time for what they consider to be wonderful. The
curse of modern man is to be so busy he has no time for wonder. Dag Hammerskjold said
years ago, "If spiritual things become a drag and the message of Christmas is dull you can be
sure the problem is not in the message but in your loss of awe and wonder at the message."
A group traveling by train through the Rocky Mountains was thrilled and visibly moved
by the magnificent panorama. A woman on the train with them hardly raised her eyes from
her book, and when she was asked why she explained, "this is the thirteenth time I have
crossed the mountains. The first time I could not keep the tears from rolling down my
cheeks, so impressed was I. But now I have known it so well that I frequently
go through the whole range with scarcely a glance out of the window". Her sense of wonder
was gone and she no longer recognized the grandeur of the breath-taking beauty around her.
This same principle is constantly at work in relation to the marvel, mystery and majesty of
God and the wonder of Christmas.
Lawrence Housman, who opened the way for religious drama in twentieth century
England with his famous nativity play, told of an incident that happened during rehearsal.
The wise men paid their tribute and retired off stage. All lights were to be turned off, except
the one shining on the manger. Someone by mistake turned off all the lights leaving the
stage in utter darkness. A voice shouted, "hey there-you've switched off Jesus!" This is
what is happening on the stage of history today. Jesus is being switched off and Christmas
without Jesus is incapable of inspiring any lasting awe and wonder.
Dylan Thomas, in his reflections on A Child's Christmas in Wales, shows the pathetic and
pitiful result of a purely secular Christmas where love for Christ and wonder at His coming
are not instilled in the heart. He writes, "One Christmas was just like another....I can never
remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it
snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six." When Jesus is switched off, this is
the kind of heritage that is passed on. No matter how much earthly glory you put into it, it is
a fading and temporal glory which cannot move you to the depths of your soul.
The trivial always becomes tame and tiresome but the eternal message of Christmas and
the Incarnation: "God contracted to a span, incomprehensibly made man", always carries
in it the potential for inspiring wonder. We want to study Luke's account of the first
Christmas from the point of view of the wonders involved. Just scratching the surface of a
match can cause it to burst into flame and though that is all we can do with Luke's record,
scratch the surface, it is hoped that this will kindle a flame of wonder in our hearts for
Christmas. Consider first-
I. THE WONDER OF THE FIRST CHRISTMAS SETTING.
How can we help but marvel as we look back at the matchless mystery of God in a manger
and the circumstances and characters on the stage during this great drama. John Adams, a
founding father of our country, said, "I always consider the settlement of America with
reverence and wonder, as the opening of a grand scene and design in Providence for the
illumination of the ignorant and the emancipation of the slavish part of mankind all over the