“What if?” I asked Jack. “What if we drive north, away from the lights of town? If we see something, it will be worth braving the cold and losing a little sleep.”
Soon we were standing together on a gravel road in the silent cold, heads thrust back, craning skyward, not knowing what to expect.
Suddenly we saw a faint white streak, shooting upward, and almost immediately another trailing beside it. Then the heavens gathered and knotted at the center, forming a great dome overhead, and light showered in all directions.
Next the light streaked red, dazzling us with jewel-like radiance. Lower along the horizon, it glowed green and luminous blue. Then the lights joined and began to twist and dance. They leaped and shuddered and twirled and swooshed!
We felt giddy; we felt high. We both laughed out loud.
When things finally quieted, we trekked back to the car in silence. Our desire fulfilled—that of seeing aurora borealis—transmuted into deeper longings. . .the shared longings of this season. . .of seeing the One who fulfills all desire for beauty, for glory, for the miraculous, the holy.
In scripture we are given the word for this kind of seeing. The word is behold. The writer of Ephesians speaks of it this way: May the eyes of your hearts be enlightened.
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus speaks of the “drowsy” heart as a condition that would keep us from seeing; from being fully prepared to behold the Coming One. The drowsy heart is weighed down by carousing, drunkenness, and the anxieties of daily life. And in writing to the Thessalonians, St. Paul instructs us to strengthen our (drowsy) hearts by increasing and abounding in love.
The Incarnation we most long for is our own, and it comes through the strengthening of our hearts. To love, we must be in touch with our own desire to see—to behold with the eyes of our hearts; to become enlightened by Christ.
Reflect: Bring to mind the person of Christ, or another person whom you love or desire to love. Envision this person with the eyes of your heart. Notice that you do not have to be able to see their physical features clearly. This is the experience of “beholding.”
Journal: What does this mean to you? Try describing what your heart sees. Does this give you new insight into this person or your relationship to them?
Practice: Write a letter, expressing thanks for what Christ or another person has meant to you. Consider sharing your insights with someone in conversation.