The word awesome means to inspire awe. Over time, the word has been overused, so now one of the definitions includes something that is very impressive. Think about the difference between the words awe and impressive. Awe is an overwhelming feeling of reverence, fear or admiration from that which is sublime or extremely powerful. I have stood in awe of God. There is a moment of awe at the first site of a snow capped mountain around the bend or the first moment I enter a great cathedral. I sit in awe thinking about how big the galaxy is. Holding a baby for the first time inspires awe. Awe takes my breath away. Yet I use the word awesome all the time for things that are simply impressive, or at times, not even that.
We are currently celebrating the twelve days of Christmas. These are the twelve days between Christmas and Epiphany, ending when the magi came to visit Jesus. I love these days because we do not have to rush away from the awe of Christmas. We can sit in it and really let the gift of Christmas set in. Christmas is more than impressive, it’s awesome. God is among us. Jesus came to live with us. This truth brings awe that cannot be digested in a single day.
Think of Mary. She is visited by angels, told she will have a son even though she has never been with a man. She is told she is bearing God in her womb. She will soon be visited by wise men, kings. She has been frightened, courageous and willing, and now she is holding the sleeping Messiah in her arms. It’s all too much. She sits and ponders, wonders, tries to hold it all in her heart.
Abundant blessing takes a while to sink in. And this, baby Jesus, may be the most abundant blessing of all. It is so abundant that, thousands of years later, it’s difficult to believe let alone understand. It is a truth we have to adjust to. In the twelve days of Christmas, we are invited to ponder it, to be filled with awe, let the sense of awe wash over us. We are blessed. God is among us, not as power but as vulnerability. God is among us, most powerfully with the lowly, with ordinary peasants. Now that is truly awesome.