What Child is This?
By Leslie Bertucci
For as long as I can remember, Advent has been my favorite liturgical season. Even as a child, I loved the joyful anticipation, the sure hope that SOMETHING BIG is coming; SOMEONE is coming.
One of the traditions I am determined to pass on to my children is doing a simple night time ceremony using an Advent wreath, along with prayers and songs of the season.
We still use the same lopsided homemade wreath that my very uncrafty hands put together when our oldest child was a toddler.
Now that our children are mostly grown, there’s no more arguing about who will light the candles.
They’re more ready to give an answer to the question: What would you like us to pray to help you prepare to welcome Jesus into your heart? Their voices are a bit more on key as we sing O Come, O Come Emmanuel.
But, if I’m being honest, I miss the good-natured squabbling about whose turn it is to blow out the candles, and their childlike prayer requests for a better attitude toward their chores and schoolwork.
Perhaps, the most important activity of this season is contemplating the mind-blowing concept of God leaving heaven and becoming a man like us in order to save us. Or rather, God becoming a shivering little baby in a manger, who would grow up to know hunger and pain and loneliness, just like we do.
I imagine myself in the stable with the Holy Family on the night Jesus was born. I see myself peering down into the manger at the newborn king. He looks up at me, then holds out his arms. I immediately scoop him up and hold him close.
As I rock him in my arms, I begin to softly sing “What Child is This?” But I know what child this is. He is the child who will grow up to save the world by shedding his blood on the cross, by enduring all the torments men devise for him. He chooses the cross, as he chose the stable, for love of me.
On our mantel, we display, side by side, year-round, both a nativity and a crucifix. One scene shows the beginning of the story; the other shows – not the end – but the price paid for our salvation. The story won’t end until Christ returns to earth and wins the final victory over death.
In the meantime, thank God, there is Advent.