There are so many Christmas storybooks! You could read your kids a different Christmas storybook each day of Advent for five years and still not exhaust the supply of adventures ending in someone discovering Baby Jesus in a manger! We never seem to run out of ways to arrive at that same manger, and it’s a destination we never seem to tire of! Why is that?
I remember a moving conversation I had with a mother whose child was adopted from another country. He’d grown up as the only visible minority in both their family and their town. He was loved, and he knew it. He counted this family as his own. But he struggled to integrate the different elements of his identity, especially because he had elements to his identity he didn’t even know. So, the family decided to travel together to his birth country, to help him connect with a part of his identity he had always grappled with, and to help him find the piece of himself he felt missing.
The family went on a journey for their son to find himself. But God seemed to have bigger plans for their trip, because it ended up being a journey in which they all found themselves, together.
This is what the journey to the manger is for us.
We all start the Advent journey to the manger differently. Maybe it’s because of a sense of wonder, like the magi. Maybe it’s because of an invitation, like the shepherds. Maybe it’s because of routine, like the innkeeper. But regardless of our motivation in setting out, arriving at the manger can change us all.
In that manger lies the poor, helpless, defenseless, totally dependent Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity. Why? Why would the all-powerful God come in such a vulnerable little form?
To be with us. To redeem us. To teach us to love. Because he loves us with such a love.
In arriving at the manger, we find the heart of God. And in finding God… we find ourselves. We find ourselves loved with unsurpassed tenderness. And in this realization, we are humbly moved to return love for love, tenderness for tenderness, vulnerability for vulnerability, faithfulness for faithfulness. Made in the image of God, each time we find God more truly we also find ourselves more truly. And this understanding of God and of self allows us to give ourselves freely to him who loves us best.
As parents, we can sometimes focus so hard on making Advent a time of discovery for our kids that we forget we are all on this road to discovery together. This year, challenge yourself to find the adventure of this season. Really embark together with your kids on the journey of Advent.
Bl. James Alberione, founder of the Daughters of St. Paul, told us to always “begin from the manger.” So, as you read Christmas storybooks to your kids this Advent season, find a story that captures the journey to the manger in a special way. Maybe it’s an old classic you grew up with that you’d like to share with them. Or maybe it’s an entirely new perspective on the adventure, like the story of the wise men’s stable boy in A Little Camel for Baby Jesus, or of a barn owl’s search in Guess Who’s in the Manger.
Whichever story you choose, imagine yourselves on that same journey together as a family, because really you are a part of that journey during Advent. What do you find underneath that star? Who is lying in that poor little manger? How does this discovery change your lives? Who is Jesus for you today? How does the presence of Baby Jesus change and define you as a family? What is something you can do together to remind yourselves of this?
As you discover Jesus anew together, you may find that, in an unexpected way, you discover your family anew, too.
by Sr. Orianne Dyck, novice
Image: Greyson Joralemon for Unsplash