For real. That is actually my engagement story. (And yes, it is a story that brought my husband years of brownie points from me and oodles of frustrated glances from other guys.)
When the events of this story were unfolding, no one told me how I should respond to them.
No one told me that I should let my mind wander with excitement when my boyfriend surprised me with tickets to Paris. (We had talked about getting married some day. And then he bought me tickets. To Paris. For New Years Eve. At the turn of the millennium… How could this not include a proposal?) No one told me that I should try to pay attention and be fully present when I watched fireworks launch from the Eiffel Tower. No one told me that I should be filled with enthusiastic energy when my boyfriend dropped to one knee and asked me to be his wife. No one told me that I should run to phones to share the news with friends and family when we got back to the United States.
No one told me I should feel or do any of these things. I just did them. Anticipatory wondering. Full engagement. Enthusiastic energy. Passionate sharing. These things were my natural reaction to one of the most significant events of my life.
It’s amazing how many shoulds have entered into our experience of Christmas.
We should pause and reflect. We should feel reverent. We should worship. We should remember what this season is all about. We should feel joyful.
Somehow, it can all end up feeling so forced.
It wasn’t like that when the events all unfolded for the first time.
After the angels visited the shepherds and told them the news of Jesus’ arrival,
“they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.” – Luke 2:16-19
Responding. Pondering. Treasuring. Sharing. Praising. These are the natural responses of Mary and the shepherds. No one told them they should do these things. They couldn’t help it. Their excitement over the unfolding events compelled them.
Now, I don’t think it’s realistic for us to expect our reaction to the celebration of Jesus’ birth to be quite as dramatic as those who were actually there, in person, to see it. But, I do think there is still something we can learn.
Shoulds don’t work.
We cannot compel ourselves to be joyful and worshipful during this season.
But, we can choose to engage with the God who can compel that response in us. We can let our minds wander with the profundity of God coming to earth as a human baby. We can think and talk and pray about why the incarnation matters to us- how our lives are different because Jesus is part of our story.
And maybe, just maybe, we will be compelled to worship.
Wonder: Rediscover the Christmas Story is an Advent series designed to help us pause and reflect on how amazing the stories of Jesus’ birth really are. To break through the cluttered busyness of the season and touch our hearts with the awe of what God has done. Let’s make this a season of wonder and worship, marveling together at our great God.