“We give praise and thanks to You, O God, we praise and give thanks;
that Your name is near Your wondrous works declare,
and they who invoke Your name rehearse Your wonders.
Watching for wonder.
I knew that was the theme for the Christmas | Winter issue months ago. February 2020 to be exact. Right at the beginning of Covid when all the world seemed to shut down, and I was sick with what became a 10-month period of illness, I knew the themes for each of this year’s Cultivating editions. Spring would be Receiving Life, Summer would be Entering Fullness, Autumn would be Gathering In, and this merged Christmas | Winter edition would be Watching for Wonder. Knowing that theme anchored me like having a map and being sure of my destination at a journey’s end. I was given an unyielding hope with that theme that no matter what happened over the course of the unfolding months, no matter how hard or disappointing things might become, the Lord had appointed wonder to be found at the end of this year. Knowing that gave me a certainty when everything else felt bitter and uncertain. The knowing of it was a promise. This year – 2020 and into Winter of 2021 – there will be wonder here in our lives where we live, and in the world we watch.
Wonder is ever entwined with hope exactly because it heralds His presence. There is no true wonder apart from Him. Many try to imitate it, but wonder and glory belong legitimately only to the Holy I Am. He is the God “Who does great and unsearchable things,
Wonders without number.” (Job 5.9). His presence is the secret place of the Lord Most High referred to in Psalm 91. His presence is our home and shelter, our joy and rest, our fulfillment. And wonder crowns Him.
Wonder is the precursor for worship, and we are made for it like fish are made for water. Whatever else we may think we yearn for, in our bones and souls, we yearn for His presence.
“But God will look to every soul like its first love because He is its first love. Your place in heaven will seem to be made for you and you alone, because you were made for it–made for it stitch by stitch as a glove is made for a hand.” C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
Does it not whisper a reminder to you that the word “presence” is echoed in our English word ‘presents’? Presents are what many believe to be the end-goal of the Christmas season. Giving and getting as many as possible racked up beneath the Christmas tree, in our stockings, and as T.V. commercials would have it, in our driveways. And yet, what we most long for in the unseen, unspoken places of our being, is not an inanimate object, no matter how beautiful, expensive, or desirable. It is the Presence of Another that we yearn for, even when we cannot identify who it is. We long for the presence of Someone who re-rights the world and us in it, Someone who re-writes the Story’s ending that now seems to be going so badly we wonder if anything can ever be made right again. In our depths, we long for Someone who sings the holy wonder back into life and makes our broken, tired hearts whole again. Someone who makes us remember what it is to laugh from the well-spring of our own being. We long for the Presence of the Holy I AM Who makes all right and true and beautiful.
How fitting it is that the name He gave Himself for us is Emmanuel – God with us.
“My soul waits in hope for the LordMore than the watchmen for the morning;Yes, more than the watchmen for the morning.”~ Psalm 130.6
Advent is a season of watching like shepherds guarding our ordinary days and like wise men watching for the enfleshed King of Heaven. This is a season of waiting, yes. But it is not a season of waiting without hope. To cultivate watchfulness and expectancy is our calling as Christians, as it ever has been for those who came faithfully before us. The reward for our watchfulness will be given by the King of wonder. He promises.
The featured image is (c) of Lancia E. Smith and used with her glad permission for Cultivating and The Cultivating Project.
The image is of the famous doors of St. Edward’s Church in Stow-in-the-Wold, Cotswolds, England. This image is available for purchase in our Shoppe here.
Lancia E. Smith is an author, photographer, teacher, and business owner. A grateful lover of the Triune God, Lancia is the Founder & Executive Director of Cultivating & The Cultivating Project. She has served in executive management, church leadership, boards, and Art & Faith organizations over 30 years. She & her husband Peter have parented 7 children, & have a flock of beloved grandchildren. Lancia loves garden and website design, beautiful typography, road trips, being read aloud to by Peter, & cherishes every book she ever read by C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and George MacDonald.