Rediscovering Wonder this Christmas

I wonder what pastime or hobby you used to love doing when you were a kid at primary school, but now that you’re older, you no longer do at all?

My friend Scottie used to absolutely love playing cricket when he was a little kid. But as soon he got to High School he didn’t make the rep team, and so he just stopped playing, and started doing other things he could be more successful at. But still to this day he misses it.

You see, Scotty has this theory. He thinks that when you’re a kid, you spend most of your time doing the things that bring you joy and fill you with wonder. But when you get to High School people often stop doing those things, and instead focus on the stuff that other people tell them you’re good at instead.

When I was a little kid, I used to love painting, flying kites, and making model aeroplanes. Sure, I was horrible at all three – but all of those things filled me with this life affirming sense of wonder at the world. And yet, once I started High School, I quickly realised none of those things would help me progress up the social ladder of my school, and so I just stopped doing them. And yet to this day, I still miss painting, kites and model aeroplanes.

Abraham Joshua Heschel, a Jewish poet with a huge beard and even huger eyebrows  famously wrote “Never once in my life did I ask God for success or wisdom or power or fame. I asked for wonder, and he gave it to me.”

But it’s funny how as we get older our sense of Christmas wonder can shrivel up – worn down by the stresses of work, the geo-politics of Christmas dinners, and the hum-drum of the domestic grind. I talk to so many people who are either burnt out or bored (or both!) as they wind up the year and head into Christmas.

One of my favourite contemporary religions artists is a chap called Scott Erickson (www.instagram.com/scottthepainter) who’s been doing a fantastic series throughout Advent, and he’s introduced me to this wonderful word; “Ostrananie”.

It means the art of making what’s familiar unfamiliar again. He says “This advent season I’m going to attempt to do this with our seasonal narratives that have mostly been developed by marketing and commercialism. Because in the unknowing of it all, the doorway of wonder will open up… and hopefully we may catch a glimpse of the wonder of the Divine in our midst right now.”

Now that’s the kind of Christmas I’m in desperate need of this year!  So maybe this summer break it’s time you got in touch with some wonder filled hobby or activity you used to do as a kid – as a sort of spiritual practice of becoming like a child again? Maybe it’s time you were intentional about making space for wonder?

So if you’re looking for me this holidays, you’ll find me on Ilam Fields flying a kite badly with my kids, with a huge smile on my face.

Rev Spanky Moore
Senior Ecumenical Chaplain | University of Canterbury