My husband and I were asked this year to do the Advent reading at our church on the 3rd Sunday of Advent, and light the Advent candle, as part of the service. We agreed, happy to be a part of the celebration. We arrived at the church a few minutes early to review the reading with our pastor. Up on the platform, behind us, the scene was being set with props for the children’s Christmas program that was also taking place in the service that morning. Someone placed a makeshift manger, with a baby doll directly behind where we were standing. My husband was focused on Pastor Rick’s instructions and did not notice what was happening behind us. As he turned to make his way to the Advent wreath, observing that he was oblivious to his surroundings, I instinctively cried out, “Don’t step on baby Jesus!”
I won’t soon forget the look of complete shock and awe on his face. He immediately looked down, and nearly tripped over himself, in an attempt to circumvent “baby Jesus”. Stunned laughter then followed, as he realized his near miss. Thankfully, we were able to compose ourselves enough before the service to do the reading and candle lighting without giggling our way through the whole thing. Though it was a reading on “joy”, so maybe some giggling would have been in order! For those of you who may be new to the concept, Advent is simply a season observed in many Western Christian churches beginning on the fourth Sunday before December 25, as a time of expectant waiting and preparation for the celebration of the birth of Jesus at Christmas. It comes from the Latin word adventus, which means “coming”. Each of the four Sundays before Christmas, one of the candles is lit, representing hope, peace, joy, and love. On Christmas day, the Christ candle is lit, in celebration of the birth of Jesus.
Though Advent is a time of “expectant” waiting, often during the Christmas season, some of the most inspiring moments arrive unexpectedly. That morning, in the middle of the bustling, energetic children’s program, which was a live telling of the Christmas story, complete with Mary, Joseph, shepherds, angels, three wise men, various sheep, chickens and other livestock, and of course, “baby Jesus”, unexpected inspiration happened. In the middle of scene 2, an 18-month-old little boy named Eli, playing the part of a cow, bundled in his furry costume, waddled over to center stage and dropped to his knees alongside the manger where “baby Jesus” lay. King Herod was stage left, causing all kinds of havoc, yelling his lines, doing his best to keep the attention on his big scene, but my eyes were riveted on the young cow kneeling at the manger. He was mesmerized by the baby in the manger. The commotion King Herod was making to his left didn’t capture him; the other barnyard animals on his right mooing, braying, and pacing about didn’t lure him; the giggles from the audience in front of him didn’t distract him – he simply couldn’t take his eyes off “baby Jesus”.
Hope whispers, expect the unexpected.
Children often seem to hone in on what’s important when we adults are captured, lured, and distracted by the unimportant, and insignificant. It struck me how distracted I can get by trivial concerns, or lured into the latest drama in my life, causing me to lose sight of what really matters. Children have a way of seeing past all that. From where I was sitting, I could see little Eli’s face; it was filled with wonder, curiosity, and delight. His eyes reflected truth, beauty, and purity, as he gazed at the representation of hope, peace, joy, and love, in the manger.
Unexpectedly I found myself thinking, I want to see what Eli sees. I want to be so taken by hope, peace, joy, and love that fear, chaos, sorrow, and apathy can’t even compete for my attention, let alone overtake me. The Bible references an occasion where Jesus disciples tried to keep children from interacting with Jesus because they thought the kids were bothering Jesus, but He told them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” (Matthew 19:14) No wonder Jesus told his disciples to let the children hang out with Him – they understood what was really important.
This Christmas, I hope you get the opportunity to view the wonder of the season in some way through the eyes of a child. And if you do, expect to be inspired.
How might Christmas change for you if you were able to view it through the eyes of a child? Or maybe it has already, and you’d like to share your unexpected moment of inspiration!