Spiritually Desensitized

Several years ago I attended a youth conference where I heard Mike Frost (of Small Boat Big Sea) speak for the first time. I remember little about the conference except playing chicken with the waves at Manly (I was knocked off my feet twice by big waves – bit of blood, lots of water) and hiring a little convertable sports car. And one significant talk by Mike. He spoke simply and powerfully about the wonder of God. The “wow”. I don’t mean the trendy penty “God is like, He is just so cool” kind of “wow”. Mike talked about the wonder that draws us irrisistibly, yet fearfully. He gave the analogy of the child seeing fireworks for the first time. Nothing could be more attractive, exciting, but also a bit scary.

Why am I reminiscing? I have been thinking about the Christmas story, and it has occured to me that as Christians we have been innoculated to some extent to the wonder of the story of Jesus. When was the last time you read the bible and marvelled over its contents? Spoke out loud your surprise. “He did that?”. He said what? How could fourteen (or so) year old Mary say to an angel – may everything you say come true, when told of her forthcoming divine pregnancy? It is as though we are spiritually desensitized. We have lost the “wow”. We have domesticated Jesus, and reduced the bible to a bunch of nice feel-good stories.

Christmas is so much more than the iconic images of the Christmas card. Unborn babies are filled with the Holy Spirit. Laws of nature for procreation are transcended. Ordinary people are visited by angelic beings. The arrival of God moving into the neighborhood of humanity is marked by the thin cry of a newborn. God connected to humanity by an umbilical cord.

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6 thoughts on “Spiritually Desensitized

  1. Thanks for your thought provoking words Christina. I’ve just spent many hours of my day wondering through the exceedingly tacky spaces of one of our very own shopping Mecca’s and it struck me how we have reduced this defining moment to providing a little ‘magic’ for the kids on their summer holidays. The imagery and beauty rendered within the original Christmas story has become the backdrop for our spending frenzies.

    It saddens me that I’m also victim to this desensitisation. I long to be inspired and know I should feel awe when reading of such events in history, but it’s gone.

    How do you think we can reveal this wonder once again? Is it possible to do so within Western society or has it been forever stripped of its remarkable glory?

  2. I certainly hope it is possible, but to be honest, I have no clue how. It seems like a “David and Goliath” situation – the Jesus story of Christmas vs the monolith twins capitalism and consumerism. Sadly the movement probably needs to start with those of us who follow Jesus – we need to rediscover awe.

  3. I agree with you that Christmas has lost its meaning to most people. Consumerism and Commercialism is such a big part of the season now, for companies it’s all about sales. People neglect to see Christ in Christmas.

    However, I see an upside to the companies offering sales and advertisements and merchandise. Christmas is the season in which we honor Christ’s birth, Christianity’s greatest gift. It seems to me that giving gifts on that day is not only honoring Christ’s gift, but relieving us of our selfish ambitions. For two months, we are shopping for someone else. It’s a shame that most people think they have to go into debt to buy gifts, but it is an honor to them that they want to buy for someone else. Ten months out of the year, they buy for themselves.

    The definition of honoring Christ doesn’t need to be just a prayerful thanksgiving and a hymn. While I am of the belief that attempting to be just like God is undesirable, I believe Jesus set an example on Christmas day. Giving, not receiving, is the reason for the season.

    Anna, the wonder will be forever lost to us, at least the wonder that the Apostles would have felt. We have not seen and heard, as they did, all of the events that would make us shake in our boots in awe, wonder, and yes, fear. Ours must be a different awe, perhaps not one of total bewilderment and fear, but simple amazement that God would give as He did. We cannot lean on the emotions of others, not even the Fathers, but we must create that emotional connection ourselves. Most people will never do that. It’s a side effect of a free society — the freedom to be ignorant. This is why consumerism rules this holiday.

    All consumerism aside, I’ll say that I look forward to Christmas this year mostly because I will be able to give my loved ones gifts, and they’ll be able to do likewise. I think that God would smile on that, saying something to the effect of “Good, they got the point.”
    Maybe it’s me, of course, but those are my two cents.

    Always thought provoking, Christina, and also Anna! Keep writing, both of you!

  4. I’ve been thinking of late of the things that take me to a place of awe because they have this “wow” factor. Usually they are of particular beauty to me, but they also require me to be involved somehow – whether that be on say, an intellectual level, or perhaps, as a visual stimulant. It may be that I am looking at something with fresh understanding because of recent learning. It’s a hard one to pin down really. I also find that when I see transformation occur in a place that I considered to be bound to dormancy that wonder is an instinctive reaction of mine. However, I must say that I don’t see wonder as something I can personally create or conjure at whim. But I think we can provide more opportunities for it to occur. Creating times and spaces for these emotional connections to be made – as you suggest Will.

    Just a side thought, children seem to have this wonder of revelation naturally bubbling up from within them. That seems to be what attracts kids to stories in the first place. Things are fresh. Miracles are possible. I’ve watched them be stirred by these Christmas narratives.

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