IVP - Strangely Dim - Wondermusic

December 19, 2003


by David A. Zimmerman

I was listening to Christmas music one day when I heard the song “Oh Holy Night.” I was thinking how awe-inspiring the night must have been—the spectacle of angels bursting into the view of shepherds, a blazing star lighting the path to the birth site of the King of kings—but that song was followed by “Silent Night,” and suddenly the images in my head seemed out of sync. The bright lights, the chorus of sound, the driven visitors with their elaborate gifts seemed to interrupt what should have been “so tender and mild” a moment of “mother and child.”

So what is the appropriate response to the arrival of the Prince of peace? Scripture suggests that both silent wonder and awestruck wonder are appropriate, but the common denominator here is wonder. Mary “stored up in her heart” the unlikely events from the stable that became her birthing station to the “little town of Bethlehem” and the later visit of foreign kings; she wondered at the arrival of flushed and hurried shepherds wanting to catch a glimpse of “him whose birth the angels sing.” Likewise, the visiting kings wondered at the disruption in the heavens that had brought them; the shepherds wondered at the sights and sounds that broke into the night that normally kept silent. Meanwhile, the infant slept on, we presume, in “heavenly peace.”

These songs are the interpretation of history rather than history itself, of course. But the accounts provided in Scripture tell us that even as earth received its king, a mother and father received their newborn son. We can marvel at the idea of our God visiting us here, humbling himself to take on a life that will begin in simplicity not befitting the Creator of the universe and will end in a death undeserved. We can marvel likewise at the idea of birth, that God gives us a family, a heritage, a home.

Christmas is a time of miracles little and big. The Christ who came to usher in the kingdom of God is also the Jesus who was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. And the ultimate message of Christmas, the message of Jesus’ life, is that the coming and present kingdom of heaven will bring to us peace and good will. These are trademarks of the family and the hope of kingdoms past and present. And these are the promises delivered two thousand years ago in the form of a newborn Son, an infant King.

What wondrous love is this?

Send comments to dzimmerman@ivpress.com.

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at December 19, 2003 11:31 AM Bookmark and Share

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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