Several years ago, on a bright Spring day, I was standing outside the school – the daffodils had just appeared and were in full flower. As I looked at them I heard myself say – “oh no, not again”. I could not believe that they were up once more. I felt tired and even irritated by the seemingly endless repetition of the same. I was shocked by my reaction.
Something similar can happen with Advent – it is easy to hear myself saying, “oh no not again” — it seems just yesterday when we were celebrating it -all that purple and wreaths – where did the year go?”
Familiarity dulls my perception and sets me at a distance from any encounter – be that with a daffodil or with Advent. I become disengaged…. As Patrick Kavanagh remarks, “Have tested and tasted too much and through a chink too wide there comes in no wonder.”
At one level, preparing for advent is about reclaiming a sense of wonder so that we can, as Kavanagh says, “rediscover and celebrate the newness that was in every stale thing, when we looked at it as children.”
Overcoming the numbing effects of familiarity – this deep and pervasive form of alienation – is a constant battle – every walk I take, every place I visit, every person I meet can be missed and the sad thing is that the important aspects of most things, including Advent, lie hidden behind their familiarity. A wise person once said, “that generally the familiar, precisely because it is familiar is not known.”
It is worth asking ourselves, as we begin Advent, what we can do to get behind the facade of the familiar and experience the strange and wonderful beauty of this season – allow it to become once again what Gregory describes as “a disclosure zone for God”– a time and space for encounter with the divine.