Last Sunday, I began my Advent journey with a heart filled with hope. I’d parted with a tiny village of Christmas houses which had been with my husband and me since our first Christmas together. Though I had second thoughts, I found the courage to leave them at the St. Vincent De Paul Thrift Store because I gave in to the hope that another family would treasure them as much as I. A few days later, while I prepared for my day to babysit for our little grandson, his mommy called to say that Danny was under the weather. No one knew if this was a reaction to recent immunizations, teething or a little “bug” of sorts. As a result, Mommy planned to stay home with Danny. When I offered to help out as needed, Mommy asked if I could sit for just an hour while she took care of a few things. I happily obliged.
When I arrived, I immediately noticed the difference in Danny. This crawling-walking-talking little imp confined himself to Mommy’s lap. His slight fever dulled his typically sparkling eyes and he was unusually quiet. In an effort to keep our time together as normal as possible, I took Danny on our usual morning tour. We looked out the living room windows to check the weather and assess the condition of every leaf-shedding tree we could see. We stopped at the piano for one verse of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and then moved on to the wall of family photos. I was heartened when Danny perked up at the sight of Grandpa’s picture. We continued our walk past a mirror where I made silly faces (never to be repeated in public) to amuse him. Danny couldn’t help laughing aloud at each of my attempts. When we ended our walk in his room, I asked Danny if he wanted to work at his desk which is a little table-top toy with lots of musical gadgets. When I pressed a button to start the music, Danny perked up a bit more. When I pushed a second button, Danny began to chair-dance in my lap. He looked at me and smiled as he moved in sync with the beat of the song. For the first time since I’d arrived, Danny seemed truly joyful and I knew he’d feel much better in short order.
You know, whenever Danny hears music and whenever he is particularly happy, Danny dances. When I read the scriptures passages for this Second Sunday of Advent, I realized that Danny is on to something. We are all meant to embrace the joy which comes our way with Danny’s enthusiasm. In Isaiah 1:1-10, the prophet describes the day when one will come who is filled with the spirit of the Lord, “…a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength.” This one would embody these things so perfectly that he would transform this wretched world into God’s holy mountain, a second Eden where peace and joy would reign over everything. In Matthew’s gospel (3:1-12), John the Baptist emerged from the desert after praying, reflecting and making Isaiah’s message his own. John’s enthusiasm was so great that throngs of people came to listen and to be baptized by him. Even Pharisees and Sadducees sought out John’s baptism in an effort to be prepared for God’s promised one. It is Paul’s letter to the Romans (15:4-9) which encourages us to recognize what Isaiah’s and John’s audiences could only hope for. Paul pointed out to his followers and he points out to us that we have seen the one of whom Isaiah spoke. He is Jesus who opens his arms and his heart to everyone who seeks God. Paul expected all who had seen to live accordingly. Indeed, we are a people of hope-fulfilled and we have no excuse not to dance!
I recognize that it is unlikely that Isaiah or Paul, the apostles or Jesus’ other followers danced their way through this life on a daily basis. Jesus himself likely didn’t dance his way to breakfast each morning. Though I dance with Danny every time Grandpa and I visit him, I don’t dance my way into the grocery store, the cleaners or wherever else my errands take me. I don’t even dance into church for Mass. Still, like Isaiah, Paul, and Jesus’ other followers, you and I do have reason to dance. Jesus’ love impelled him to respond to others regardless of his own fatigue and the numerous plots against him. In the same way, God’s love for us compels us to work within our circumstances to love one another and, yes, to dance with joy on occasion. The imperfections of this life simply cannot stop us from responding to those in need. We muster the courage to dismiss our own suffering and turn from our own pain to care for those we have been given to love. Like Jesus, though our legs aren’t moving in choreographed fashion, our hearts dance with love because we have seen and we know true joy.
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