Adapted from a homily shared at the Advent Service conducted by the Methodist Festival Choir on November 29th 2015.
“When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:17-19, NIV)
“All who heard it were amazed.” (Luke 2:18 NIV)
All who heard the news about Jesus the Child were amazed.
When was the last time you were amazed – truly amazed – at some news?
Modern media coverage has made the experience of true amazement very rare these days. It sometimes feels as if there is really “nothing new under the sun.” Of course, every sensational headline amazes or shocks, whether it is some horrible violent killing, or tragic air crash. And yet, because such bad news comes to us almost weekly, the amazement or shock tends to last only briefly. We get used to bad news, and we slip more easily into indifference rather than amazement or wonder.
Modern technology also plays its part in reducing our sense of true amazement or wonder. We are so accustomed to the technological wonders of our modern world. We pick up our smart phones, and within seconds we are speaking with someone thousands of miles away. We can even see their faces as we talk. Just fifteen years ago, that technology would have seemed like science fiction. Now we take it for granted, and the surprise is rather that anyone today is unaware of such available technology.
My guess is that even someone like Einstein would have been truly amazed at the technological and medical miracles that are almost commonplace today. Surgery that involves cutting one’s chest or skull open, surgically removing or rearranging tissue and organs, occur everyday. Organ transplants – taking one organ from another person and putting it in yours … extending life and health in such wonderfully miraculous ways. Do we take this for granted? Does it amaze us at all?
Modern media, technology and medical advancements have made it hard for any of us to experience any real sense of amazement or wonder.
And yet, if we can no longer be amazed truly … no longer experience a sense of mystery and wonder … then we become people who are indifferent to almost everything. Mystery is replaced by monotony, and life without wonder becomes a life without hope or expectation.
Albert Einstein said, “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.”
In the busyness of our daily lives … and maybe even more so in the busyness of the Lunar New Year season of holidays and home visits … there is no time to watch, and wait, let alone wonder. No time to “pause and stand rapt in awe.”
No time to ponder and think, and allow oneself time to wonder and be amazed.
Mary took time to think. She “treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19 NIV). She took time to ponder and wonder.
Modern technology and modern science will continue to come up with astounding miracles and wonders for our health and convenience. But the wonder of them all will quickly fade as today’s miracle becomes tomorrow’s standard issue.
Maybe G K Chesterton was correct when he said that “Our world will never starve for want of wonders. It will starve only for want of wonder.”
We all live in a busy, modern world of technological wonders. I pray that my wife, children and I - and every of one of you and yours - will somehow be able to make time, to watch, wait and truly wonder at the Wonder who is truly God.
“Glory to God in the highest, and peace on earth” to all who make time to ponder the wonder of Love divine in human form.
On TRAC Together for God's Word, Worship, Welcome, Witness and Wonder
Rev Dr Gordon Wong
This article was first published in the Feb 2016 issue of the Methodist Message, and is reproduced here with permission.