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Ponderings and Christmas Hymns

Mild He lays His glory by, born that man no more may die

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices

Oh tidings of comfort and joy

He rules the world with truth and grace

King forever, ceasing never

The Christmas hymns have grabbed me this week, and my ponderings make me yearn for Jesus.

So many Christmas carols encapsulate the idea that the story we recall at Christmas time is a story about a baby who is more than a baby. Years ago, I heard a teaching about a God who speaks. The teacher said God speaks, but His voice is not always audible. God speaks, he said, and it’s not always clear that it’s God speaking in that moment. God speaks, he said, like a thought that’s bigger than a thought.

I didn’t understand the idea of God speaking at the time. It all seemed too mysterious, too strange, too foreign, to imagine that God— capital “G”-God—speaks.

I was only beginning to know God then. Years later, I am only beginning to know God now. I think about baby Jesus, though and think about thoughts bigger than thoughts. A baby, a baby in a barnyard—dirty, naked, new—this was God’s biggest bigger-than-a-thought thought. The songs that get sung about that day try to tell the story of when God’s voice broke into humanity’s fragility and fallen-ness. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus.

All those Christmas songs have done something in my heart this week. I’m not sure why. I hear them, though, and I want to know Jesus. I want others to know Him too. I want this because there’s something compelling, something beautiful, something unstoppable about this story.

He really did become man and reconcile humanity to God, to life.

He really did bring hope to a weary world.

That hope really does resound in comfort, in joy.

He re-introduced the world to truth and grace.

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And He’s here, forever, giving life.

The broken parts of the world overwhelm me at times. They overwhelm all of us. Sometimes we see the broken parts up close—a marriage falls apart, a child gets sick, a loved one dies. Other times the broken parts invade our space without touching us directly—gangs perpetuate violence, drugs dismember families, predators abuse. And in the big picture we hear of children starving to death, of war slaughtering innocents and innocence, of violence begetting violence that only begets more violence. Sometimes it’s easier to not look at those parts of reality.

But Jesus looked.

During this time of year, we toss money to bell-ringers and buy toys for kids in need. We tend to see the poor a little more. We tend to think of those who have less.

I like the tendency to give pause during this time of the year. I like it because I think the core isn’t obligation. I think the core has to do with a thought bigger than a thought, a baby who was more than a baby. Christmas tradition, watered down though it might be at times, started with Jesus, a Jesus who looked at the brokenness and became flesh and dwelt right in the midst of it.

And there’s something about Jesus, something about His way. I don’t want to forget Him in the coming days and weeks. I want to find myself face to face with Him, thinking thoughts bigger than thoughts because He is here, because He is real, because He invaded and invades our space and touches us directly, righting wrongs and soothing souls. This is what the hymn writers knew. This is what Christmas is about.

I hope to catch glimpses of Jesus this holiday season. I hope you catch glimpses too. And I hope we get mesmerized by the truth of this story and let it write thoughts bigger than thoughts on our hearts.

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