Saturday, October 16, 2010

   Where is the wonder?

When watching an episode of Mad Men several weeks ago, I was knocked off balance by  noticing a plastic nativity scene from Sears, circa early 1960's.  It was the same creche from my childhood, with plastic figures in a cardboard shed with small pieces of hay glued to the roof for special effect.  The night sky, with stars was pasted to the back wall - and I'm sure it had a music box that played "O Little Town of Bethlehem."   Arranging the figures, I approached it with as much wonder as if it were the the Baroque Creche at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Truly, in my eyes "The hopes and fears of all the years / Are met in thee to-night."  Humble, inexpensive, but with an approach of reverence.    And then there are the memories  of the props for Christmas pageants.  A box wrapped with some gold foil gift wrap.  A cylinder decorated with glitter and sequins.  A 3D star of Bethlehem streaming silver garland.   Wear and tear through the years did not dim the awe - these objects made a visceral connection with the light [that]  shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

As a mother I have hoped to create opportunities for my own family to make these fine connections and wonderous memories.   With a lot of irritation I see items offered for the Advent and Christmas season that are devoid of wonder.  For instance, I doubt that inflatable holy gifts are adequate to provide the sense of wonder; the memories of awe that are woven in with the Christmas story from year to year.  (Melchior carrying a blow-up urn of myrrh? So not awe inspiring.) The awe that is gradually transferred from a child's admiration of the bright and beautiful objects to He who is the focus of it all.

I hate to be the party pooper here, but I think store bought inflatables won't do it.  Or nativity scenes in which the Holy Family is portrayed by marshmallow snowmen or rubber duckies.  The visual and tangible accessories of a child's exposure need not be expensive, complicated or ordered from a catalog.  But there has to a connection to the wonder.

I'm as proud of my Irish heritage as anyone - but really?And what are the magi bearing?  Gold, frankincense and Lucky Charms?

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