It is a mind-boggling, hard to grasp, awesome story unlike any other story ever told. But what makes this story so wonderful and so important is not that its plot is way beyond anything you would’ve ever conceived. What makes this story vital to know and understand is that it is not a well-crafted fantasy. The thing that should make you stop in your tracks, activate your heart and mind, and fall to your knees is that this story is real. It took place in real time at real locations with real people. All human history was marching to the specific point in time when this story would unfold, and the implications of the events of this story reach to everyone who has lived since. The Christmas story is the story of stories.
I’ve thought a lot about the danger of familiarity in our lives as the children of God. It is good to be familiar with the story of the gospel of Jesus Christ. It means that God has met you by grace. It means that He has opened the eyes of your heart to what, without Him, you would not see or understand. He has drawn you close to His side. He has pulled back the curtain and shown you the deep mysteries of His redeeming plan. He has blessed you with the presence of His Spirit, who continues to illumine His truth for you. You are familiar with the story of the gospel of Jesus Christ because the love of God has been lavished on you.
But familiarity often does bad things to us. Often when we become familiar with things, we begin to take them for granted. When we are familiar with things, we tend to quit examining them. Often when we are familiar with things, we quit noticing them. When we are familiar with things, we tend not to celebrate them as we once did. Familiarity tends to rob us of wonder. And here’s what’s important about this: what has captured the wonder of our hearts will control the way we live.
Let me give you an example. Pretend that you have moved to a new neighborhood and the first morning, when you go out to walk your dog, you happen upon a beautiful municipal rose garden. Although Fido is yanking on his leash, you just stand there, blown away at the display of early-morning beauty that is before you. You can’t wait to get home to tell your family what you discovered, and you’re excited about taking them there to see it too. But as you walk by that garden day after day something happens to you. Within a few weeks you walk by without stopping, and in a few months you don’t even notice the roses anymore. Familiarity has done this to you; what you once celebrated, you now don’t even notice.
Sadly, many of us aren’t gripped by the stunningly magnificent events and truths of the birth of Jesus anymore. Sadly, many of us are no longer gripped by the wonder as we consider what this story tells us about the character and plan of God. Sadly, many of us are no longer humbled by what the incarnation of Jesus tells us about ourselves. We walk by the garden of the incarnation, but we don’t see the roses of grace anymore. Our eyes have gone lazy and our hearts have grown cold.
I know how easy it is for me, on any given day, to forget who I am and what I have been given in the person and work of Jesus. Other things in life capture my attention and the allegiance of my heart. Other things rise to levels of importance in my mind, way beyond their true importance. And when other things capture and control my heart, little room remains for wonder and worship. Familiarity often means that what is very important may no longer exercise important influence over us in the way it should.
So my prayer for this Advent season is that as we retell the glorious story of His birth and remember the hundreds of prophecies foretold of His coming, our hearts would flutter, our stomach’s would experience the butterflies of awe, and the fuses in our minds would be blown. This really is the most wonderful time of the year if we have eyes to see and ears to hear.