No one has to tell small children to be excited this time of year. Virtually EVERYTHING has the possibility of making them jump up and down, clap their hands gleefully and twirl excitedly in circles. Christmas carols. Cookies. Beautiful ornaments. Lights on trees. Wrapped gifts beneath the tree. They are so present to the promise of this season. It seems they practically spend the entire month of December on their tip toes, ready at any moment to leap for sheer joy and the good things before them. Perhaps it is just the sugar from the Christmas cookies that does that in them, but I don’t think so. Children know something, don’t they, about leaping for joy, that we who have seen more winters sometimes take for granted. They know how to trust in promises. They know how to trust in promises.
They are in good scriptural company in this regard. We hear this in the story of the Visitation, in the lives of Elizabeth and Mary who trusted “that love would keep its promise” to appear, even in seemingly impossible situations. Elizabeth was elderly and beyond child bearing years. Mary was unwed, ‘having no relations with a man’. And yet, there they are, impossibly pregnant, with John leaping for joy in the womb to announce to them both what God in his love is doing for them.
It’s the leaping, though, that catches their attention. Elizabeth was probably overjoyed to see Mary in her own right. (It’s not like she could have texted or called ahead of time to let her know she was en-route.) But now, she has that awareness ratcheted up because of John’s leaping. And what was before ‘just’ a joyous event, now becomes a faith event because of that stirring in her womb. Elizabeth proclaims about Mary – “Blessed are you who are so loved by God”, and “blessed are you because you have believed.” It is John’s dance in the womb, his leaping, that transforms the moment.
So too, the leaping for joy we observe in small children can have that effect on us. It can transform ordinary moments into faith moments. We, who too often see this world with tired eyes, are invited by leaping children to see this world as a place of wonder and hope. I was at a friend’s house on Wednesday when they did the great ‘unveiling’ of a new play area in the basement. Gracie, the younger of the two girls wasn’t quite sure what to make of the transformation, until she saw her sister Bella giggling and doing this little dance routine in the middle of the new carpet. That was all it took – seeing that ‘dancing for joy’, and Gracie joined Bella in the dance, because she could trust in that new space created for them.
So, this fourth week of Advent, (all 36 hours of it before the celebrations of Christmas begin) I invite you to keep your eyes open for leaping, excited children. They shouldn’t be too hard to find. Stop your world long enough to ‘see what they are seeing’, to let their excitement and joy propel you through the business of the days
• to see hope on the horizon,
• to see love at the door,
• to see a world made whole and holy by the child to be born in our midst.
Have a blessed, albeit short, 4th week of Advent…