It's been much too long since I wrote in one of my blogs - a full year since posting in this one! But tonight I had a story, and a picture, to share, so decided it's about time.
In the first place, Advent has always been extremely special to me. Outwardly, from organizing the annual Hanging of the Greens celebration at church, writing Advent devotionals, and participation in Christmas Eve services, I've been a part of the action. There have been countless Nativity plays. I've directed plays some years, watched my children do various plays, and done my share of making shepherd and angel costumes.
This wasn't just a church activity either. Advent took over our home as well. Until recently, I decorated full-sized Christmas trees - one in each room - all with different themes. I collect nativity scenes (mangers, creche`, whichever term you prefer) and display them throughout the house. Week by week, just as the number of lighted candles in the Advent Wreath increased, so did my excitement.
But there's an inward part as well. Advent, even with all the activity, brings me peace and joy. I love the connection to those that heard the ancient prophecies in Isaiah and waited for Emmanuel. The anticipation increases each week until Christmas Eve. While I liked it before, once I became a mother, I could relate to Mary and how she felt holding her newborn. The songs of the season filled me in ways few other lyrics can do. Christmas is not about Santa to me. He's just a "by the way" we threw in casually because the world does. Christmas is about the anticipation during the Advent season leading up to the birth of Jesus Christ to me. Even my many trees pointed to this.
Then there's the other part of the explanation - which is probably a factor in my reaction as well. Not long after we found out my daughter was expecting Noah, I learned my health was delicate and I wasn't guaranteed to make it to meet Noah, or at least, certainly wouldn't be with him long. This, plus him being the only local grandchild for four years, made me very appreciative of the time we have together.
As it turns out, Noah likes Advent as well. Of course, all kids love Christmas, but the past few years, he helped me set up some of the Nativities. We acted out the story using the little figurines over and over. He has known about Baby Jesus as long as he could talk I guess. Chances are, I probably told him about it when I rocked him as a newborn. In addition to my nativities, I've also been drawn to Advent Wreaths, probably because they serve as a clock of sorts, organizing the season into weeks, each with a special emphasis. A few weeks ago, he and I made a picture of an Advent Wreath out of construction paper, reviewing the meaning of each candle as we did it. I enjoyed that time together. He's learning about Advent and the Nativity at his new preschool, too.
Then came the news that he'd be a shepherd. Oh the joy! It is as if the cycle of life has turned full circle and a new generation takes the stage. He'll be in the processional at the Christmas Eve Mass, one of the most holy times of the year. Being 4, it won't seem holy at all... he won't understand that generations before him did the same thing. He'll just think it's fun.
The past few years have been an unexpected gift. Living long enough to not only enjoy Noah, but his brother and cousins, has been a joy. Perhaps I was taking it for granted, because one of the first thoughts I had when I learned he'd be a shepherd was, "I never thought I'd see this." I don't focus on the idea of not being around, and guess I didn't know that it was there below the surface. But it really touched me intensely.
Watching the young children, their eyes full of wonder and joy at the often repeated story, is very special to me. To have Noah be a shepherd is a step in that direction. It is as if no matter what, I know that the next generation will be shepherds, and there will be Nativity Plays, and Advent Wreaths, and all is well.