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Does Awe Come Before Joy?

While in Glacier National Park this summer, Will and I made a daring choice. While hiking the Highline Trail we decided to add the Garden Wall trail. If you do not know of the Garden Wall trail, it’s an off-shoot of the Highline Trail that climbs 1,000 feet in about three-quarters of a mile. To say its steep is an understatement.



But, at the top is the Glacier Overlook, a stunning overlook that peers eastward on to the ice fields and melted pools of Grinnell Glacier. 

 

It’s a view that literally took my breath away. The effort of the climb was worth the view, even if I only do it once my lifetime. Such a view was awe-inspiring.

 

Awe, like joy, is a hallmark of Luke’s version of the Christmas story. Many characters are specifically described as being amazed: the neighbors of the Judean hill country at John’s birth, everyone in Bethlehem who hears the shepherds good news, and Mary and Joseph after they receive Simeon’s blessing in the temple. And there are other instances in the story when we presume that the characters are filled with wonder and awe, including when angels appear to Zechariah and later to Mary and when Zechariah discovers he can speak again.

 

I think sometimes we forget about awe in the Christmas season. Maybe we are rushing around so quickly, we don’t slow down enough to notice what’s happening. Or maybe we have heard the story so many times that we hardly even hear it anymore. Or maybe we simply want to forget that Christmas is just around the corner.

 

But I find myself wondering if awe actually comes before joy.

 

Sometimes joy can feel out of reach. But maybe we start to find joy when we allow ourselves to notice and take in the amazing wonders of each day, wonders we can too easily ignore: the bird’s nest in your favorite tree, the ice on the leaves in the early morning, the sunlight coming through the windows.

 

Such awe is a balm for the weary. It awakens those who feel numb. It renews those whose senses have been dulled. And it may even turn to joy.

 

Thanks be to God.

 

Grace and peace,

Kimmy

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