Sometimes we just don’t see it first time round. It’s all a bit of a blur… too much going on… perhaps distracted… whatever the reason.
I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced something similar – maybe a photo from years back, or a sporting event just attended, or a conversation recently spoken – just not seeing it first time round – missing important elements, seeing only what is prominent and not catching the most important… I think we do this more times than we ever dare to believe. And it is important to acknowledge this process – because invariably we don’t go back for a second look because we believe and settle for our first observations. And our fist observations can be so wrong… or when not wrong so short of the full picture.
Little children know this – they love stories being read and re-read to them… familiar tales and known endings repeated over and over again yet enjoyed with even greater enthusiasm. With each re-telling the story gets fuller in many, many different ways as the characters are stretched into 3-d reality, repeated words take on sinister proportions, and shadows lengthen as the climax is told again and again… what is missed on the first viewing is caught and developed over and over again!
This year I’m approaching the season of Advent with all this very much in mind. Advent is the time of darkness where day by day the darkness is dispersed until the full radiance of Christmas dazzles and enlightens every corner from east to west, north to south. In the season of Advent the eyes of our hearts are invited, challenged even, to adjust themselves to the deep darkness so outlines can be glimpsed, provisional findings articulated, corners turned… in Advent we are asked to look and look again at what we thought was familiar, but which, if we’re honest, we don’t really know at all. Well, yes we know the names – Mary, Joseph, Bethlehem… we know the sequencing – angel Gabriel, the stable yard, the manger, the shepherds… and we know the climax – the birth of a son. And because we know these outlines, we think that is enough. And so the story is really only half-told, well, not even that!
The Christmas narrative has plenty of gaps, question marks, magic and simple humanity. It’s a story to take the breath away – if only we would let it. Little children are good at this. Us adults – less so. Jesus teaches us that to enter the Kingdom we must become like little children, so Jesus asks us to look again, and again, and then again – maybe in the all too brief spaces between all the stuff we do in this season of Advent. The looking might be the listening to a Christmas song, it might be the re-playing of a Youtube clip, it might be a re-reading of the Christmas story, the lighting of a Christingle candle… and the outlines then become filled out into something new, wonderful and utterly unexpected.
Be very blessed in this Advent and Christmas season – and don’t forget to look, especially if you think you’ve seen it enough times already – and there’s nothing more to see!