For people around the world, Christmas is a season of anticipation, joy, gifts and celebration. For others, it represents a season of loss, loneliness, isolation and sadness. For many others, it’s both. How do you see it?
“Do you see what I see?” is a question asked in a popular Christmas carol. It refers to the first Christmas where wise men, the Magi, from the far east follow a star in search of a king. The Magi were astronomers trained as keen observers and interpreters of the night skies, intimately familiar with the movements of the planets, constellations and phases of the moon. In looking up they were guided and eventually found what they were searching for.
However, their discovery came in an unexpected way in an unexpected place. They found the King of kings disguised as a baby lying among farm animals in a small Judaean village.
According to studies, nowadays over 90% of people never look more than 15 feet above their heads. In today’s world, everywhere you go you see people looking down at their three-inch phone screens or glued to their 13-inch monitors just two feet ahead of them. Our field of vision has narrowed down so much. What might we be missing? What’s the chance that we are missing our guiding star?
The human eye is amazing. A person can see things five kilometers straight ahead until their vision is impeded by the horizon’s curvature. On a dark night one can see candlelight 48 km away from a high elevation. Even more remarkable is that if we only took the time to look up, way up, the human eye can detect stars two and a half lightyears away. That’s 19 trillion km away!
But there’s a difference between seeing and observing. Observation is more than simply seeing something; it is a mental process involving both vision and thought. One’s powers of observation can be developed by cultivating the habit of watching things with an active, inquiring mind. The Magi saw the star, observed the changes in the sky that most people missed, and let these lead them in a new direction.
What are we seeing and observing this Christmas season? Are we cultivating the habit of observing and being inquisitive about our feelings, emotions, love, happiness, grief, or loneliness? What might we be missing by focusing on the less important things?
Often we go off each day, taking for granted our surroundings, the many things we fail to see along the way, because we are rushing to get somewhere. The pandemic taught us a great lesson when the world stood still for many months, and even years. It taught us to slow down, to take notice, and to look not just outside, but also within. As the world slowly returns to its pre-pandemic state, our hope is that we don’t forget the lessons we were taught during that period.
As we celebrate the birth of our Savior, let’s once more take a pause. Let’s make the most of this season by lifting our eyes to see, observe and follow the feelings within us. You may just be surprised by what you see. Only then can we make room for unexpected gifts in unexpected places and unexpected ways.
Wishing you all a merry and meaningful Christmas!
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Cathy is in private practice as a grief, loss, and transitions coach. She is an author of four books, two of them on grief.
Mark has been a registered nurse for 47 years and is an educator specializing in end-of-life care. He was director for training at the second largest hospice in North Carolina in the United States. —Ed.