Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Loss of Wonder

A number of years ago I preached a Christmas Eve sermon on the loss of wonder. As a child growing up my world was filled with wonder, with the surprise and awe of things that captured my imagination. I suspect that many children grow up this way though I also suspect that the age at which this sense of wonder begins disappearing has grown younger and younger. Christmas captured that sense of wonder best -- the child squirming in bed for a night all too long until the surprise of presents placed under a tree can no more be put off.

I suspect that this is one of the problems we have with religion and faith. We have lost our sense of wonder. The world around us is a problem to be solved (energy sources and supply, loss of the rain forests, species under threat...). Our fantasies run more toward the invented than the real (video games and media have turned us away from a reality enhanced to another world entirely). Truth is no longer seen as the foundation or building blocks of our reality (either nothing is true for us or everything is true).

One of the reasons I like Harry Potter and Twilight is that these are stories of wonder and surprise, of mystery and anticipation. One of the reasons I am suspicious of them is that they are filled with darkness, foreboding, and angst -- the very things our wonder should not be focused upon.

Whatever became of wonder? Of the child peering over the manger to look into the face of God? Of a twinkling star and mysterious figures from the East who make their way far from home into the presence of the surprising Savior? Of shepherds and angels who assemble together as a church and a choir to break into the stillness of the night when God showed Himself to the world in the face of His Son?

Whatever became of wonder? Of ritual and gestures that serve the mystery of the God who comes to us in bread that is His body and wine that is His blood? Of water that bubbles up with the hidden life of the cross and empty tomb to snatch one more from the kingdom of death and write his/her name in the book of life? Of art that pulls at the strings of our imagination of the God who descended to us, who revealed Himself in miracle and message, who suffered in agony, who rose in victory, who ascended to glory? Of incense rising toward heaven intermingled with the prayers of so many people? Of candles that glimmer with light not made by GE but by GOD?

Whatever became of wonder? Of buildings that stretched our eyes to the heavens (instead of blank walls and video screens, stage lights and generic venues)? Of music that drew us out of ourselves and into the mystery of the Incarnation, of the Passion, of the Resurrection, of the Real Presence (instead of songs that simply make us feel good for as long as we hear them but leave no lasting impact upon our dark moods)?

Whatever became of wonder? In sermons that call us into the presence of God (instead of telling us utilitarian ways to make our today a little better, our marriage and family a little better, to make us a little happier)? In studies that did not rob Scripture of its intended mystery but confronted us with it as one story slowly and deliberately unfolding in the hand of God's timing and not our watches or calendars?

Whatever became of wonder? How can we approach Advent and Christmass without it? How can come to Church and be satisfied with the immanence of today and its issues instead of eternity and its transcendent new reality? How can we exchange entertainment or feelings for the legitimate wonder that God intends for us to have about Him, about our lives in Him, and about the destiny created for us by His Son's redemptive offering? Without wonder and mystery it is all so cut and dried, dull and dusty, dark and desperate... Whatever became of wonder?


Anonymous said...

May I suggest Out of Darkness by Anne Rice? She comments on this sense of wonder, especially as it is found in the liturgy, and the role it played in her return to the Christian faith.

Pastor Peters said...

Thank you, I will check it out...