Resolution to awe and wonder

“And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.” (Acts 2:43)

I heard in a podcast recently someone musing that many of us have lost our capacity for wonder. I believe this person was attributing our lack of awe to the 24-hour news cycle. Information moves so quickly nowadays that it’s hard for anything to really sink in. The insight connected with my own observation of the people around me and of myself. Case in point: Christmas.

I know we are just past the Christmas worship services. But as I think about the New Year and what resolutions I might make, my heart and mind go back to Christmas. The Christmas season, including the anticipation built up over Advent, was my favorite time of year as a child. The trappings of the season – the balsam smell of live Christmas trees, the sparkling lights on the tree and on houses, the sweetness of Christmas cookies and gingerbread people – all filled me with wonder.

My parents tell me that when I was 3 years old, they left the baby Jesus out of the nativity sets scattered around our house during Advent. Only after I had gone to bed Christmas Eve did they bring out the manger with the baby. When I woke up, one of the first things I saw was the figure of Christ child. And with great excitement I said: “Look! It’s the baby Jesus! Let’s pray!” Even the incarnation was reason for my young self to rejoice. I carried the same wonder and awe into the whole season.

As an adult, my sense of Christmas wonder has waned. I try to recreate my childhood delight in simple pleasures, and while I still appreciate the smell of a live Christmas tree and enjoy baking Christmas cookies, it just hasn’t been the same.  The earlier we begin the Christmas season (it was before Halloween in my city this year), the less wonder I feel. Didn’t someone famously say once that “familiarity breeds contempt”? That was my experience of Advent and Christmas… that is, until my son turned 3.

This Christmas was the first time my son was aware of the season. Everything was new to him and totally amazing. We went to a wealthy part of the city to look at mansions decorated with lights. The sight of stately live oaks wrapped with white lights caused him to say: “Wow! Mommy, look at that!” And with fresh eyes, I looked in wonder at the beautiful lights. On December 6, we opened stockings for St. Nicholas Day.  Every present, even the puzzle purchased for $1, was cause for rejoicing and lots of giggles. I felt again the great fun of opening gifts, as I witnessed his joy and delight.

Now we come to a new year, and I don’t want to lose my sense of wonder. I don’t want to miss moments of beauty, even if they don’t come in the form of twinkling white lights or the sweet taste of a special dessert. How do we maintain our sense of wonder in and out of season, when life moves so fast, when things in our world feel extra bad? Can we continue feeling awe when we are disheartened by the divisions in our nation, by violence, by the ever-increasing damage following natural disasters? Is there still room for wonder in times of pain and stress?

Perhaps there is room for wonder, even when life is hard, if only we pause long enough to look around us with fresh eyes. Oh God, in this new year, give me the eyes of a 3-year-old, open to seeing you and taking delight in the smallest of pleasures. This is my resolution.

RACHEL YOUNG is the associate pastor of spiritual formation at Clear Lake Presbyterian Church, in Houston, Texas.  She is married to Josh, who also serves on staff at Clear Lake Presbyterian as the director of contemporary worship and media.