Tag Archives: wonder

The Wonder of Christmas

To listen to today’s homily, please select the audio file below:

“I wonder as I wander out under the sky,

why Jesus, our Savior, was born for to die,

for poor, orn’ry people like you and like I

I wonder as I wander out under the sky.”

Wonder is a Christmas word;  we hear it in the carols we sing and in the words we hear and in the prayers we say.  Wonder is our reaction to something  beyond what we expect, beyond our experience and our understanding,  so big it leaves us lost for words.

We need wonder these days to lift up our minds and hearts.

Listen to the gospel story from St. Luke:

‘In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole world should be enrolled.” Caesar Augustus, the ruler of the world gives an order. “Quirinius was governor of Syria.” Quirinius , Caesar’s enforcer for Palestine, orders his jurisdiction to be counted. The mighty and the powerful of this world have spoken.

But the high and mighty, the politicians, the generals, the money people don’t impress Luke. Rather, his eyes are drawn to a couple in the multitude being enrolled,  a couple from an insignificant town in Galilee called Nazareth– Joseph and  his betrothed wife Mary, who was with child. They’re  on their way to Bethlehem.

“While they were there, the time came for her to have her child, and she gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger,because there was no room for them in the inn.”

Luke goes on in his gospel to tell about this child born in Bethlehem, who grows up in Nazareth, who begins to preach and work marvels in Galilee, who gathers excited followers and then goes up to Jerusalem where he’s arrested, sentenced to death, crucified, then  raised from the dead. Luke goes on to describe the followers of Jesus who take his message to the ends of the earth and to us today.

That marvelous story begins in Bethlehem,  where a Child in swaddling clothes is laid in a manger, because there’s no room in the inn. That marvelous story goes on. It changes the way we look at ourselves and the world in which we live. God is quietly at work in our world, unnoticed, unacknowledges, God is with us.

There’s wonder in this story, a wondrous love’s behind it. This Child is God become like us, like “poor, orn’ry creatures like you and like I.” So unexpected, so beyond our experience and understanding, beyond words.

Today’s a day that calls us to wonder. Let’s not lose that gift that takes us beyond where we are. Begin with the world in which we live, the world around us as we “wander out under the sky.”  However difficult and dark this world can be, there’s a wonder to it. We’ve been gifted with the wonderful gift of life, which we carry in the flesh and blood that is ours, the gift of life we have in our families and our friends and all of those around us. Let’s not take them for granted.

Then, there’s the gift of God we remember today, a God not distant but close, a God not removed from our experience but sharing it, a God who loves us so much that he wishes to become one with us, a God who would die for us and bring us the promise of life that never ends. Let’s not take God for granted.

“I wonder as I wander out under the sky, why Jesus our Savior was born for to  die, for poor orn’ry people like you and like I. I wonder as I wander out under the sky.”

I Wonder

I wonder as I wander out under the sky,

why Jesus, our Savior, was born for to die,

for poor, orn’ry people like you and like I

I wonder as I wander out under the sky.

Wonder is a word we use often at Christmas.It describes our reaction to something  beyond what we expect, beyond our experience and our understanding. It’s so big it leaves us lost for words.

We describe the mystery we celebrate today as the wonder of the Incarnation.The wonder that God, who made all things could become human like us, and in such startling circumstances.

A woman was telling me about her little girl, Isabel. She’s in the first grade in a little Catholic school down the street from us and they were into the Christmas story recently.

“She can’t wait to go to school, ” her mother said. “They’re putting together a creche for the Baby Jesus and they’re learning all about the angels, and the wise men who come to the stable on camels, and Mary and Joseph, and the shepherds and the wicked king who want to kill all the babies in Bethlehem. They’re offering little prayers that the whole world be blessed when he comes.”

Isabel is enthralled by it all. “Mommy, did you know Jesus had to sleep on straw. That  straw we put in the crib would  hurt him when he slept on it.”

Isabel was asking what she was going to get for Christmas, and her mother told her that before we open our hand to get anything we have to open it to give something. So Isabel wants enough money to buy presents for everyone in the world. She’s going to have to see the Secretary of the Treasury of the United States for a bailout like that, her mother says.

The Christmas story is a wonderful story. Children are delighted by it: it touches the oldest and wisest of us.

I was reading a Christmas sermon of St. Augustine recently. You can see him wondering  too about this great mystery. Listen to him.

The Word of God, maker of time, becoming flesh was born in time.

Born today, he made all days.

Ageless with the Father, born of a mother, he began counting his years.

Man’s maker became man; the ruler of the stars sucked at a mother’s breasts,

Bread hungered,

the Fountain thirsted,

the way was wearied by the journey,

the truth was accused by false witnesses,

the life slept in death,

the judge of the living and the dead was judged by a human judge,

justice was condemned by injustice,

the righteous was beaten by whips,

the cluster of grapes was crowned with thorns,

the upholder of all hung from a tree,

strength became weak,

health was stricken with wounds,

life died.

He humbled himself that we might be raised up.

He suffered evil that we might receive good,

Son of God before all days, son of man these last days,

from the mother he made, from the woman who would never be, unless he made

her.  (Augustine, Sermon 191, 1; PL 38, 1010)

Through the years, this mystery of God made so many wonder. May it bring us to  wonder today.