Joyous Wonder

Joyous Wonder


The Rev. Shannan Hudgins is a Chaplain at Baystate Hospice, West Springfield, Massachusetts.

Scripture: John 1:1-5; 14a (NRSV)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

Reflection: Joyous Wonder


The year I nosed around our house until I found my Christmas presents was the year I totally faked Christmas morning delight. I bounced around the floor on my knees, grasping a new Chatty Cathy doll that wasn’t the delightful surprise I was enacting. It was terrible, that visceral shame that settled into me as my parents laughed at my display. Breaking the Christmas season’s no-snoop rule had been a devilish pleasure as I re-hid the longed-for doll on the top shelf of the entryway closet. The devilish met up with me that early morning of Christ’s birth, and I did not like his countenance. 

At some point I stopped the dramatics and tuned into my brother’s delight. His prized gift that year was The Visible Engine. It was a replica of a combustion engine that, when its hundreds of small parts were carefully glued together and assembled, one could see the inner workings of a car’s engine. He was a budding mechanic ~ his life’s work it turned out ~ and his wonder and delight were Five Star Genuine.

I set aside my talking doll, watching as he lifted parts out of the box. He laid everything out carefully, fingering each new piece of the engine with tender awe, describing every part for us: my parents were captivated, too.

His was deep-hearted joy, the joy we’ve been waiting for all this Advent. Shepherd-like joy that changed history on a quiet night somewhere near Bethlehem long ago.

When did you last feel the joyous wonder of this day? Maybe you’re in it right now, caught breathless by the miracle of Jesus arriving in a tension-filled world two thousand years ago, so much like our own. Or maybe you’ve been bouncing about on your knees, desperate to stir up some hope where faith has been fleeting and love is nowhere within reach. “Oh what a glorious morning,” we could sing, if only . . .

Christmas morning is too-often laden with our human-centered expectations, piled on as they are from our deepest longings for release from worry and its accompanying anxiety. We’ve searched for the perfect gift that we hope will surely bring joy and peace to the day. Our great expectations might very well smother us.

And to our ears nearly done in by the raucous chorus of bells and carols, John’s message arrives. It is salve for our burdened souls, balm for our weary and wary hearts. Words shimmer with wonder. Delight takes center stage before our front-row seats.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Last night you might have grasped a flickering candle in a shadowed sanctuary singing “Silent Night,” longing for a spark to ignite your heart. This morning’s coffee may spread a particular warmth throughout your body, but it’s Light you’re really after.

“He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him,” John declares. “What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.” That’s you and me, friends. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” Toggling between the dawn of Creation and the dawn of Christmas, God comes to us where we are. Our lives carry this light John names: “And the Word became flesh and lived among us.” Jesus, the Light of the world.


God, we have longed for the light of Emmanuel during this season of ever-shorter days and long, dark nights. May true and genuine delight fill our hearts, for God with us has arrived today. Amen.

New Prayer Requests:

We ask churches and church leaders to join us in the following prayers either by sharing them during worship, printing them in bulletins, or sharing them in some other way. To make a prayer request, please contact Marlene Gasdia-Cochrane at

Prayers of Intercession:

  • For the people of Ukraine whose lives continue to be shattered by war.
  • For those grieving or suffering due to the ~42,300 gun violence deaths in the US this year, including those re-living the Sandy Hook tragedy that happened 10 years ago this past week.
  • For the people of Haiti who are living in terror every day due to the gang violence that is plaguing the country.
  • For those suffering from the severe weather events that are wreaking havoc across the country, including the extraordinary snowstorms and tornados experienced this month.
  • For patience.

Prayers of Joy and Thanksgiving:

 This Week in History:

December 18, 1620 (402 years ago): The English ship Mayflower docks at modern-day Plymouth, Massachusetts, and its passengers -- a group of reform-minded Puritans -- prepare to begin their new settlement, Plymouth Colony.  [History

“Study the past if you would define the future.”

December 19, 2022
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