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The wonder of Christmas

Wonder of Advent for a child

There have been some bright spots of wonder in these months of pandemic. For Annette Erbes, those include “the unexpected gift of quality time with children.”


ANNETTE ERBES

Lay Leader, Michigan Conference

Rock-a-bye my dear little boy,
Dear little boy,
Wonder of wonder, my blessing and joy.
Slumber as I gently hold you,
Let my tender love enfold you;
Gift of God to me and the world,
Here in my arms lies so peacefully curled.

Some of my favorite Christmas carols are those that celebrate the birth of the Christ Child. Whether it be Rockabye My Dear Little Boy or Infant Holy, Infant Lowly, the lyrics bring forth the hope and promise that a new baby brings. One of the bright spots for me in these last pandemic months has been the unexpected gift of one-on-one quality time with children. Whether that has been tutoring instruction or providing childcare, time with little ones has brought me joy, perspective, hope, and provided me with lessons of my own.

Now a parent to two adult “children,” it has been a while since I’ve been gifted with focused, uninterrupted time observing, nurturing, and caring for an infant. Those times, of course, did occur when we were raising our own kids, but the blessing now of spending hours with an infant or toddler without the demands of parenthood is a wonder-filled gift. More time to focus, watch, and be amazed. More time to ponder the mystery of faith and growth. Permit me to share some of my most recent wondering …

We know that babies tend to focus on that which is right in front of them. That favorite ball, play gym, or rattle is usually nearby. As nurturers, we seek to expand their focus by providing and encouraging them to see, reach, and explore new objects around them.   

I wonder what it is that God is nudging me to reach for and see that is beyond my immediate line of sight. I wonder what new understanding it is that God would like me to grasp.

The more time I have spent with each of these young children during the past year, the more our relationship has grown in knowledge, understanding, and trust. I am greeted with smiles of recognition (even when masked!) as I have become a familiar caregiver and part of a known routine. As babies become toddlers, however, the fear of new faces can develop and, as caregivers, we seek to help children develop more independence and trust.

I wonder how God is calling me to ministry that involves risk and moving beyond what is known and comfortable. I wonder what new persons I might reach out to and be in relationship with.

When it has been a few weeks or months since I’ve spent time with one of my little friends, the physical and developmental growth is obvious. How quickly they change … moving on to new sizes of clothing, developmental challenges, food options, and capabilities. Their rapid growth is amazing!

I wonder what new growth is evident in my faith development and relationship with God.

One of the surprising joys of playtime with babies and toddlers is discovering that a random movement or phrase can bring forth deep laughter and joy! Even just a simple sound made with a toy or an exclamation or word that tickles their spirit bring us to repeat that laugh-inducing action over and over again. Deep, simple joys fill our hearts!

I wonder what simple joys are awaiting my discovery today.

A favorite activity with my young friends is experiencing their delight in a walk outdoors. The bird’s melodious song, changing leaves, arrival of the first snow, and scampering squirrel are cause for wonder and examination that pause our walk to simply take a moment to be amazed at creation.

I wonder what natural wonder God has placed before me this day.

And finally, on a personal note, this Advent is taking on a new meaning for me and my family as my son and daughter-in-law anticipate the birth of their first child later this winter. The joy and blessing in anticipation, hope, and preparation of a baby’s arrival bring us alongside another Baby’s anticipated arrival on Christmas Day.  

I wonder what God has in store for this new baby, this blessing of hope.

This Advent season, I pray that we may all find uninterrupted time to focus on the Baby who comes to Earth, bringing us joy, wonder, hope, and light. Emmanuel, God with us. What a blessed wonder-filled gift!

A child is born to us, a son is given to us, and authority will be on his shoulders. ~Isaiah 9:6

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