I had the joy of encountering this young child on my travels this week. Together with her kid brother, they were making themselves a mobile phone each. Cut to size from cardboard, they drew the dial pad on paper and gummed it on. They were happy with their new phones. It was a great moment of my here and now to share in their joy. Such sweet innocence.

The face of this child became my Advent image. My heart wandered momentarily away from that moment feeling a sense of pity for them, “if only they can have more”. “More of what?”, I asked myself. By what, and whose standard am I gauging their happiness that I should have the gall to feel sorry for them? They were already in their bubble of perfect happiness. Wishing they had more was like pricking and bursting their bubble of joy.

As adults our bubbles of this sort have long burst. We do not remain a child forever. We grow into responsibilities, and with them come challenges. “Too many” most of us would say for a lifetime. Ideals give way to being practical. Being sweetly innocent may result in being left behind by the world. Our emotional journey in life can take us up mountains of hardships and down valleys of depression. Or they can take us up beautiful mountains of joy and down into serene valleys of peace.

“I want you to be happy, always happy in the Lord; I repeat, what I want is your happiness. Let your tolerance be evident to everyone: the Lord is very near. There is no need to worry; but if there is anything you need, pray for it, asking God for it with prayer and thanksgiving, and that peace of God, which is so much greater than we can understand, will guard your hearts and your thoughts, in Christ Jesus.” (Today’s second reading)

So, Christmas is very near. Adults and children approach Christmas very differently. As adults, we also see the practical side and are concern with cost. As tired adults, after yet another tough year, we see it as an excuse for a year end bash. As anxious adults, before we even celebrate Christmas, our minds are already cast into another new year of work and performance. But Christmas does offer all of us something different. The gift is there for everyone, but we must each unpack the gift.

Christmas is real. For some it may only be a moment of joy. For others a day or even a week. But the spiritual reality is a lifetime of joy. Our celebrations can take us far away from the true meaning of Christmas, or it can lead us to the deep depths of what this gift really is. Emmanuel, the Lord is very near, God is in our midst.

We believe. But a declaration of belief isn’t quite enough to feel and see this spiritual reality of a lifetime of joy. We must grow in this belief like a child grows into an adult through the mountains and valleys of our earthly journey.

Christmas comes around once a year to invite us into a spiritual bubble that will help and protect us as we travel through life. To enter this bubble, we must humble ourselves to have the sweet innocence to allow God to be our God.

3rd Sunday of Advent