The Art of Seeing
Have you ever thought about the difference between looking and seeing? We can look at something and never really see it. Think about a scenario where three different people all look at the same event or at a Rorshach ink blot. They then are asked to report what they have seen. How often do the details of these reports match?
I’m musing about this on Christmas Eve because I found myself wondering with all the reports that we have in the New Testament about Jesus – and especially about his birth, what the people really saw. This is because throughout the Gospels, no one really seems to have seen, to have realized, just who Jesus was. A whole bunch of people, thousands of them at a couple of dinners he hosted, came to hear Him and to look at Him – but we are never told what they went away telling people they had seen.
The poet Mary Oliver sees things deeply and then reports on those sightings. If you have not encountered her writings, I highly recommend them to you. In a poem entitled, “Look and See” she writes the following: “This morning, at waterside, a sparrow flew to a water rock and landed, by error, on the back of an eider duck; lightly it fluttered off, amused. The duck, too, was not provoked, but, you might say, was laughing. This afternoon a gull sailing over our house was casually scratching its stomach of white feathers with one pink foot as it flew. Oh Lord, how shining and festive is your gift to us. If we only look, and see.”
I want to repeat for emphasis that last line…”Oh Lord, how shining and festive is your gift to us. If only we look, and see.” Certainly the poet was exclaiming about the wonders of creation – the way each entity has been gifted to interact well with the environment around it. When we stop for a moment and consider a rainstorm and the rainbow that comes afterward, or the beauty of a sunrise or set, we stop what we are doing and marvel at what we are seeing. Words fail us and for the brief interval we are held silent by awe. Too often in our hustle and bustle world we rush through life from one crisis to the next, never stopping to appreciate the life that is going on all the time around us. It was this way in the world around Jesus, too.
Yet there were moments when people actually saw Him. Afterall, He told everyone who would listen that he came to heal the sick and lame, return sight to the blind, set the prisoners free. Sometimes, like in the case of Zacchaeus, he returned spiritual insight to someone who really needed it. He came so that we might have life and have it abundantly – that we might appreciate fully the life that we have been given and give up our striving after idols like wealth, power, prestige, or the most toys.
The child Jesus is our Lord’s greatest gift to us – and we need no other gift. God came down to be one of us – to share our lives, to be Emmanuel – “God with Us”. How many of us look at Jesus and see the shining and transformative gift that He can be if we so choose? Because if we choose to have Jesus reside in us – be born in us if you will, then the rest of our lives will come into focus; just like Zacchaeus. We begin to see with God’s eyes of love the awesome spectacle that is life lived abundantly and well.
To paraphrase Mary Oliver’s poem…Oh Lord, how shining and festive is your gift of Jesus to us! May we not only look at Him, but actually see him being born in us again today. Amen and amen! fffffffffffff