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13 / Entering Fullness

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I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord; “plans for good and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

the CULTIVATING

journal

Watching for Wonder

December 5, 2020



“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.

Psalm 75.1

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

Wonder – object of astonishment and awe – seldom appears when we expect it. Part of its effect on us, I believe, is in the very element of the unexpectedness. Suddenly something glorious is made visible and the veil between this world and beyond is pulled back for a moment, giving us an expected glimpse of wonder. I think of the shepherds and the Magi the night when Christ was born. The shepherds were watching their flocks, awake beneath a starry sky that they had seen a thousand times and perhaps thought nothing of. Perhaps one or two of them played a flute or sang soft songs to calm anxious sheep. They were watching because that was their job. They were guarding, alert and attentive, not for wonder but for sheep who needed shepherding. The Magi, however, watched the skies for messages, signs, and wonders. They watched as learned and practised men who searched the heavens for knowledge and a map to wonder. They were and still are, called Wise Men. Their long searching the heavens was rewarded with finding enfleshed wonder. 
 
To both the shepherds watching their flocks by night and to the Wise Men who watched the heavens, wonder was given. Both sets of watchers received an astonishing view of wonder that few on earth have been given – the witness of their own eyes to the newborn Son of God. The shepherds watched for a living, and so did the Magi. Both watched for different things yet the humble ordinary and the sacred learned were allowed to witness something beyond what they thought they were looking for.  
 
As Christ-followers, we, too, are watchers by trade and calling. We have flocks to watch over by night against danger, cold, and wandering. We are also wise men, watching the heavens for the wonder of signs of His presence with us. We say still in our hearts what the Psalmist wrote long, long ago, 
“My soul waits in hope for the Lord
More 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

comments

  1. As the trend today is to deconstruct and re-construct in stark barrenness, the traditions of the telling of the Greatest Story , it is such an honour and blessing to be part of a community that still sees with eyes quickened by The Wonder , and who labour so worshipfully to tease it out and clothe again the dry harsh bones of broken humanity with life, Hope and truth in all its beauty. Thank you Lancia, and Cultivating Team.

  2. Thank you, Denise. It is a blessing to have you in this community! It is a good labour we have been invited into with The Lord. 🙂

  3. Ashlee Cowles says:

    Your words are a timely balm as usual, Lancia. And this glorious, otherworldly image…I can’t wait to order these cards!

  4. Ashlee, thank you so much! I have a surprise coming for you! Merry Christmas!

  5. “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.”

    . . . Oh yes, yes!

  6. Rebecca, Merry Christmas, dear heart!

  7. Sarah Tisdale says:

    ‘’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.’’ Yes yes yes. Thank you!

  8. Thank you, sweet Sarah. Many blessings to you!

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