“We are what we pay attention to.” I heard that a short time ago. It got my attention! In this world of concerns and experiences, there is only so much data that we can absorb. So much of that depends upon our own choices. In this technological world some of us worry about the seeming addiction that is become evident in our paying to much attention to our iPhone or iPad or Androids. (They come with a variety of names.) Their intention is to get our attention. That is the reason they provide a variety of fascinating sounds to let us know someone wants to talk with us, or someone has texted or emailed us. It is a signal to “pay attention”.
The new generation is almost being parented by this communication device. Teen-agers confess how hard it is to turn off their phones, or ignore a sound that suggests someone wants you. The whole concern about driving and texting is how demanding those musical signals are, seeming to demand your response now and not later. One young boy spoke of how the alert might be a Facebook message, and he wants to be the first to “like” or “comment”. To become absorbed in what is being said or written within our tech community tends to shape us, and sometimes to shape us in undesirable ways.
The media does the same thing to us. The evening news through all of its channels is trying to get our attention, and to some extent determines what we are to pay attention to. It often feeds our fears and worries. I sometimes think broadcasters and news pundits sit around thinking, “What can we get people to be upset about tonight!” It is like that conversational game, “Ain’t it awful”, which is repeated over and over again. You hear of people who just give up on listening to or reading much of the news, because it was having too much influence on their daily lives.
Jesus said, “Seek first the kingdom of God…” In a few words, that tells us a lot about what should be receiving our attention. Notice what God is doing in our midst. Pay attention to where the light is shining in the darkness, where hope is born out of tragedy, where love is being demonstrated in a tragic world. Think of the story of the poor widow standing by the alms box in the temple courtyard, giving just a few coins out of her ragged purse. She was in a crowd of people, but Jesus noticed her. Jesus paid attention to her, and pointed her out to the disciples as one whose generosity exceeds all those religious aristocrats.
There was also the time when Jesus was in a crowd of admirers who wanted to hear him speak. Suddenly he says, “who touched me?” He noticed someone seeking him, and he paid attention to the woman’s distress. She was healed.
In this busy season of Christmas activities, who or what is receiving our attention? Do we see the widow? The shepherds in the Bethlehem fields were not in a mainline profession, smelling like sheep and camp-fire smoke. Angels gave them their attention, sharing good news. Do we pay attention to those who are the “shepherds” of our day with good news? It really matters.
Rev. Robert McQuilkin, Author