For decades my wife Leeta and I have greatly enjoyed Manheim Steamroller Christmas music. Recently, for only the second time, we attended a Manheim Steamroller Christmas concert. In my limited experience, I’ve found those to be enjoyable, quality performances with delightful music and outstanding musicianship. Some dramatic lighting and limited use of attractive background visual images help add to the vitality and enjoyment of the concerts.

However, at the most recent concert it seemed to me that things went off the rails a bit in a more extensive (but less beneficial) use of background images. I came away from the experience not only with a concert-related conclusion but also with a significant life-related reminder.

At the beginning of the second half of the concert it was announced that, in honor of this special anniversary of Manheim Steamroller’s beloved Christmas music, the band and orchestra would next perform the entire first Christmas album that M.S. produced many years ago. “Oh, this should be a great treat,” I immediately thought to myself.

An extended portion of that second part of the concert featured familiar and pleasant medieval minstrel-style Christmas songs such as “I Saw Three Ships” and “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” As an intended special feature to accompany that portion of the program, as those songs were being played, a lively depiction of a holiday feast at a medieval nobleman’s castle was shown on the huge screens which towered behind and high above the entire platform. The video production showed a constantly-moving stream of activities in the banquet hall – feasting, dancing, entertainers and the like. It also depicted a beehive of activity taking place in the castle kitchen to keep the banquet supplied with all variety of food and drink. The staging, costuming, colors and activities in the video presentation were elaborate.

But a couple of songs into that portion of the concert it suddenly dawned on me: my attention was so monopolized by all that was being shown on the screens, I was no longer consciously listening to and appreciating the tremendous music that was being so skillfully performed by the band on the platform. Even after realizing that and determining to bring my focus back to the band’s skilled performance of wonderful music, my attention was repeatedly drawn away by all the larger-than-life images and activities being projected on the gigantic screens dwarfing the platform.

I perceived most of the concertgoers were being affected the same way by the video presentation. People were obviously engrossed in the images on the background screens while at the same time engaging much less with the music being performed on the stage. One telltale sign of that was the audience’s noticeably-diminished applause at the end of each song in that portion of the concert. After one song there was virtually no clapping at all, because people were so intent on watching what was happening on the screens rather than listening to the music.

I afterward thought to myself how crazy and unfortunate that aspect of the performance had been. Here thousands of people had paid a considerable amount of money to come and watch a well-known, highly-talented band present a live performance of its music which we (the concertgoers) have come to greatly enjoy and appreciate. But we became largely distracted away from that by all the activities on the background screens.  To put it bluntly, the background video presentation became the main event while the concert performance (the main intended event) became mere background music which was much less noticed or appreciated.

Here’s the important life-related reminder that occurred to me through all this: There are many strong, attention-grabbing focuses in life that are clearly of secondary importance (or even of very little importance) compared to our primary purposes. But if we’re not careful those powerful secondary focuses have a way of monopolizing our attention and largely distracting us from focusing on and fulfilling our more important objectives. Some examples of this include:

  • Family members (or friends) who are so constantly absorbed in the endless diversions and activities on their technology devices that they fail to interrelate well with each other or other people.
  • Christians who invest considerable amounts of time watching sports, movies or other video entertainment but who claim to have little or no time for Bible reading, prayer, church attendance or Christian service.
  • Believers who devote significant time and effort to physical fitness and appearance but who give little thought or effort to cultivating spiritual health and attractiveness.
  • Christians who are preoccupied and burdened down with all the latest political developments but who exhibit little interest or concern to help promote Christ’s spiritual kingdom in their community, country and the world.

These particular instances may or may not apply to us. But each of us have some such secondary focal points that tend to vie for too much of our attention and even to displace our far more important priorities in life. Let’s be careful to identify and resist such faulty tendencies. Let’s make sure we’re not allowing less important focuses to distract from or replace our primary purposes and pursuits.

Copyright 2020 by Vance E. Christie

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