A few weeks ago, I was chaperoning a field trip with my fourth-grade son. The students were all lined up by the museum entrance when the teacher called for their attention.
“When we get back to school,” she said, “I want five notices and two wonders!”
I knew immediately what she must mean—and I confirmed with my son. “Notices” are observations you make about what you see. “Wonders” are questions you ask yourself—or maybe your teacher—as you think a little more deeply about what you’re discovering.
Notice and wonder.
It wasn’t just a great assignment for the museum. It was an invitation for every day. And it struck me that it might be a perfect way to approach Advent.
We are entering the season of waiting to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior. We can do much to prepare our hearts and minds to welcome Jesus in a special way at Christmas. But the days seem to pass more and more quickly every year, as we rush through the shopping and decorating and wrapping and gathering and caroling and cookie baking.
It’s almost impossible not to get caught up in the busyness of the season. So, maybe instead of resisting, we should lean into all of it. Maybe we can embrace the fullness of Advent and soak it all in.
We can notice the little things. The smiles. The tears. The music. The lights. The bustle. The quiet. We can marvel at the elegance of a Christmas tree, the work that neighbors put into decorating, and the energy the band teacher gives to the winter concert. We can find ourselves hearing an aspect of the Christmas story we never paid attention to before.
Then we can step back and wonder. What was it like to be in that stable on Christmas night? How did the Blessed Mother feel holding Jesus in her arms for the first time? Did the shepherds shiver in fear or jump for joy when the angel spoke? What was going through Joseph’s mind when he realized he had to take his family and flee to Egypt? How brightly did the star shine on Bethlehem? What was the journey like for the Three Wise Men?
Christmas is a season that invites wonder. But we don’t need to wait for Dec. 25 to experience that. The time of waiting and preparation that Advent offers gives us a chance to take the trip to Bethlehem alongside Mary and Joseph, noticing moments throughout our Advent journey—and making time to let our minds wonder at the magnificence of the greatest story ever told.
Maybe we’ll find ourselves with five notices and two wonders. Maybe we’ll just discover one thing that stays on our mind through the whole season. But when we approach the manger in Bethlehem, may our hearts be full of love and joy as we encounter Jesus, who will be waiting to greet us on Christmas Day.
The image is taken from The Adoration of the Shepherds by Francois Boucher.
For more on Advent in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, click here.