John & Awe
There seems to be a growing sense of expectation in our house this year – one that hasn’t really been seen in this way before. Because for the first time it would appear that both of the girls are more aware of the whole Christmas thing: the potential presents; seeing their grandparents; Santa; nativities at nursery and church; and (hopefully) something about baby Jesus being born! And their excitement fuels our excitement and it’s a really nice time – although, of course, bringing a few challenges along the way…
And one of the ways that I might be tempted to describe them both at the moment is as having a semi-permanent sense of awe: both in anticipation of what is to come; but also in the things that they are seeing and are now really able to express in words what they are feeling about. And one of the common words at the moment is simply: ‘Wow!’ At Christmas trees and decorations; at the pictures of the hotel that Granny and Grandpa are taking us to; and at the chocolate that is building up in the cupboard!
And it was the sense of awe found within the biblical Christmas narrative and the early chapters of the gospel that came into my head early this morning as I lay awake. And it was the awe that we see in John, the cousin of Jesus: First, we see the pre-birth John somersaulting in Elizabeth’s womb when her cousin Mary – pregnant with Jesus – comes to visit. And the bible tells us that as soon as Elizabeth and (I assume) the baby John in her womb hear Mary’s greeting, the jumping around starts. And then some thirty (ish) years later as John baptises people in the Jordan there is a continued sense of awe: first as John, Jesus standing before him wanting to be baptised, says: ‘I need to be baptised by you, and do you come to me?’; second (if my chronology is correct!) in John’s Gospel where upon glimpsing his cousin, John says in awestruck wonder: ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’
And it is this sense of awe that I am desperate to recapture every time I see Jesus – at this Christmas time, yes; but all year round too. Which is why I leave today with two questions: will we allow ourselves, and will we put ourselves in the position, to be awestruck afresh at Jesus this advent and Christmas time? And in a world where we might often use the word awesome, will we seek to find true awe-struck-ness in God, in whose awesomeness everything else pales into insignificance?