Growing up (assuming I am now grown – which is not a certainty), I recall reading the “Highlights” magazine when my mom would take me for a doctor visit. My favorite page was the “How are these pictures different?” game. Two side-by-side scenes were displayed with about 8-10 items that were different hidden in the pictures. I enjoyed looking for the small detailed differences.
As we enter the advent season, it raises the questions: What do we notice? What catches our attention?
Sometimes familiar scenes or experiences become habit and fade into the background. Sometimes what we notice are changes: “Your hair looks different,” “You shaved,” “Is that a new …?” A friend of mine commented that in church we have often built our theology, worship into the architecture – and it disappears. Sometimes our rituals become so familiar, we don’t even notice them (until they are changed or absent).
Sometimes we notice, or register a change with vague discomfort: “Something is different, but I can’t tell what.” Sometimes our attention is focus abruptly and startles us. “When did they put up that stop sign?” “Who moved my cheese?”
Advent is an odd season – awaiting a change that we know thoroughly in advance (scheduled, calendared and rehearsed). And at the same time, we have no clue how that change will turn our world upside down, or whether we will notice it, if it does.
If Advent’s destination is a forgone conclusion, then it is unlikely to “catch our attention.” It will fade into the architecture of our annual “holiday” routine and leave little evidence it was here. We are unlikely to notice the wonder of incarnation in new forms, or different songs, or new occasions for love.
If Advent on the other hand opens us to something different, to the unpredictable coming of grace and peace that doesn’t conform with our expectations, then maybe Christmas will hold the possibility of Jesus’ nativity startling us once again. May we encourage one another in this Advent journey, to look within the schedules, the routines, the architecture - that we may notice the new and amazing presence of God.