Two Sundays ago, Advent 4, was our final morning in the Atrium before the Feast of Christmas. It was full of happy children engaged in their usual pursuits. Some poured over the maps of Israel. Others worked on the colorful calendar marking each Sunday of our liturgical circle of 52 weeks. One used his newfound love of paints to fill a large depiction of the Good Shepherd. At least two children worked with all the materials for the altar. But, as in so many things, it was the small touches in the morning that told the real story, one about how deeply the children perceive in their hearts the coming King, the coming Baby.
This was most evident when we gathered for prayers at the conclusion of our time together. Already the Prayer Table was laden with sign and symbol: the Advent wreath, two statues of the Good Shepherd, flowers, song cards, a prayer card depicting Mary and the baby. We sang, “Now is the Time for Jesus to be Born,” and “Come, Lord Jesus…come and be born in our hearts.” When I paused to ask the children how this could be, and what could it mean for Jesus to be born in our hearts, I confess I expected silence. It’s not exactly an easy question. However, instead of silence came proclamations:
“It’s not easy.”
“It means Jesus is always with us.”
“It means we have him in our hearts.”
We then pondered the names of Jesus as recited by the prophet Isaiah, although we didn’t make it very far down the list: “Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God”; and then, on the way to “Everlasting Father”, we were interrupted by a small voice who whispered to me, “Don’t forget the Son.” At many, many junctions in our Atrium work with the youngest children, mentioning one member of the Trinity invites rapid-fire declarations of the other two members, and statements of their Oneness. It’s like nobody of their Threesome can be left out.
One final touch also proved significant. Someone couldn’t rest easy until she’d added the cruets and the Altar Book to the Prayer Table. It was only later I realized that, yes, all was ready, all was then prepared for us to receive Him: in the manger; in the Sheepfold; in the Eucharist.
“Come. Lord Jesus, Come and Be Born in Our Hearts.”