Sometimes we’re just too close to something to see it well. It’s that adage about not being able to see the forest for the trees.
It’s when we step back that things come into better focus, or we see more than first we could imagine.
Aging does that. Seniors tend to become nostalgic about the people, places, and experiences they used to know. It’s often a pleasure to review old photos or videos, re-read old letters and cards, return to sites we used to haunt.
Many of us know the :”if only” experience. If only I had spent more time with so-and-so. If only I had appreciated the kindness, wisdom, or relationship I was offered. If only I could see a face, hear a voice, share an experience with someone now gone.
The wise say, “You can go back to the place, but you can never go back to the time.” And given the speed with which venues change, even going back to the place as remembered is often impossible.
Two important lessons emerge from our regret that the past is past and cannot be made present: 1) we should recognize and cherish the people and places around us now; and 2) we should be understanding when those we cherish now do not see us often enough or share themselves with us as we wish.
For sometimes we’re just too close to something or someone to see the big picture. It reminds me of the response of that blind man in Mark 8:22-26. Jesus put spittle on the man’s eyes, touched him, and asked, “Do you see anything?” And the man replied, “I see people looking like trees and walking.” And Jesus had to lay hands on the man’s eyes a second time before he could see everything distinctly.”
The waiting and preparing of the Advent season, the theme of light and the coming of the Christ all conspire to invite us to step back and see life and church and relationships more distinctly.
Many of the people of Jesus’ day could not see him for the messiah he was. “Isn’t this Joseph’s son?” they asked. And Jesus replied, “A prophet is not accepted in his native place” (cf Lk 4:22-24).
If we can’t see the forest for the trees, it isn’t surprising we can’t see Christ because of the way we celebrate Christmas.