December 10th, 2019

Have you ever wondered about the word wonder? Probably not. We race to the dictionary to understand words we do not understand, but I doubt that you have ever looked up the word wonder. You didn’t have to look it up. You’ve known it and used it all your life. I doubt that you have ever thought about its meaning. You just regularly throw it around. You use it without ever thinking whether or not another person understands the word. The word wonder is a no-brainer. Everyone knows about wonder.

The truth is that the word wonder is as slippery as an eel. You try to catch it and it slithers away. It’s agile. It’s lithe. It’s nimble. It’s fast. It can morph into almost nothing, or it can become the guru of the unthinkable. With all due respect to the dictionary, the word wonder has a mind of its own, and it sprouts and prospers in unexpected places. When its far-reaching tentacles invade the fields of art or science or medicine or religion or philosophy, the word takes on a voice all its own. Nuances shape the word to fit the context.

In the grammatical extended family, wonder can be almost anything one wants it to be. It performs well as a noun or as a verb or an adjective, but it can easily wiggle its way onto any speech platform. It’s a clever little collection of letters.

It’s a wonder he got the job. A feeling of wonder poured over me. It’s little wonder their report was rejected. I wonder if it is ever going to rain. That building is a wonder. Wonders never cease.

All this thinking, worry and fussing about the word wonder came from my Advent reading about Mary, the mother of Jesus, and her wondering about the meaning of all that was about to happen through her. From the angel, Gabriel, the announcement of her being chosen as an instrument of God was beyond her understanding. “She was confused by these words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be” (Luke 1:29).

As we experience the season of Advent, it is well that we reflect upon the wonder that God let loose in the world. It’s more wonderful than we can ever imagine.

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