I believe the ability to wonder is almost a lost art. To wonder is “to think or ponder curiously” according to Dictionary.com. Any more, no sooner to the words, “I wonder how…” escape my mouth than someone says, “Google it!” And I usually do. We don’t allow ourselves to wonder, or to use our imagination for that matter. Our brains are saturated with images. Back in the good old days (I’m a dinosaur, you know) we used to read books. I read about a pony named Misty of Chincoteague; Pod, Homily, and Arrietty who borrowed things; and Fiver, a runt rabbit with a prophetic gift.
I read and used my imagination to enter their worlds. No one had yet made a movie out of them to show me what they really looked like, or how the places they lived really looked. I carried their stories with me because the words on the page engaged my emotions and I entered their world in my imagination. This is an art that is worth keeping alive, this ability to wonder and imagine.
We have to fight for it, though. Why spend weeks reading a book when a 2 hour movie will give is a zip line overview of the cast of characters and resolve the tension before we really get too closely engaged? Honestly, many folks don’t even buy books anymore. (I know, I know, I am a dinosaur!) We download them onto electronic devices. Soon, many phrases will lose their ability to convey meaning, like “turn the page” or “don’t judge a book by its cover.”
I am caught up in this idea of the loss of wonder as we approach the Christmas season. Something about this time of year invites me to settle down – to slow down. To stop and look around and wonder. Wonder about the man on the corner with the cardboard sign. What happened in his life to get him to that place? Wonder about the mom with three kids all laughing together in the grocery store. What makes them so cheerful? Wonder about the angry customer berating the cashier over a simple mistake. Wonder at the snow fall, the starlight, the break of day.
God met Zechariah and Elizabeth in wonder – what if they really could still in their advanced age know the joy of parenthood? God met Mary in wonder as she pondered in her heart all that was said to her. God met the shepherds in wonder as they were just keeping their sheep on a hillside when an angel appeared among them. God met the travelers who came from a distant land in wonder as they followed a star. It makes me wonder – what have I missed because I am hustling and bustling through jingle-bell jolly-days. Resist the urge to allow the Hallmark channel, the History channel, the cover of a Christmas card, or even your favorite Christmas movie (mine is White Christmas, by the way) to define Christmas for you. Listen, explore, wait, watch, and wonder your way through the scriptures and the season.
We have enjoyed a time of Thanksgiving and reflecting on the goodness of God, and now it is Advent. Advent means the coming or arrival of something or someone that is noteworthy. In the church, Advent is a season of preparation for the coming of Immanuel, God-with-us. These weeks prior to the celebration of Christmas are critically important to Christians. We must give attention to preparation, to wonder, to engaging the Word of scripture with our emotions, to carrying with us tension experienced by the people in the stories. We must – or we lose.
It doesn’t matter how many presents you get for Christmas. The only thing that matters is the presence you get when you allow the Word to dwell richly in you as you wonder at the beauty and humility of our God who has come to us. May you be graced with the gift of wonder in this season of preparation.
Happy Advent, Pastor LuAnn