Saturday, December 12, 2015



Thursday I took a walk down to the “Ironbound” neighbor- hood of Newark, along Ferry Street, which is lined with shops and stores of all sorts, many of their signs written in Portuguese. Needing an excuse to sit down and rest, I went into a Portuguese pastry shop.

As I sat there nursing my cup of coffee and watching the people who filled the dozen small tables, I caught snatches of conversations, all of them in Portuguese.

Then an older woman in an apron, who had been clearing off tables, suddenly walked over and began chatting with two young women, especially the one holding the baby. Next thing I knew, the woman with the apron was holding the infant, probably one of the cutest creatures God ever made, and cooing at it. Listening to her, I realized that the soft sh’s and long oo’s of Portuguese are perfect for that job.

She was standing just a few feet away from me when she decided that this child in her pretty little dress was so beautiful that everyone needed to see her. And so, forgetting about her damp cloth and the dirty cups and saucers for the moment, she began bringing the baby to all the nearby tables, each filled at this time of day with women, especially women in their sixties or so.

The tiny girl's smile was contagious, and everyone smiled back at her with appropriate oohs and ahs and Portuguese exclamations. The whole place was soon filled with smiles, and seemed to have a lighter, more joyful mood.

The little baby had made this cloudy December Thursday into a special event for all of us.

I watched the baby’s mother. She seemed proud and happy, of course, that her daughter was making such a hit. I caught her eye and smiled at her and nodded, silently thanking her for the gift that her baby was giving to all of us.

It occurred to me that in the middle of Advent it was appropriate that we were making a fuss over this beautiful child. Then I realized that I’d never really thought about the Christ child in that way. For me he was always, I don’t know, maybe a little distant, a plaster statue frozen in a static pose in the manger. I tried to imagine just how gorgeous that little boy Jesus must have been. What kind of reactions did he provoke when young Mary proudly showed her baby to people in the bakery or on the streets of Nazareth? This is the child that we are waiting for with such longing during Advent.

Tomorrow is Gaudete Sunday, marking the halfway point of the season of Advent. It’s characterized by the theme of joy.(Gaudete is Latin for “rejoice!”) I know I’m going to feel that joy a little more this year because of that little baby who had filled the whole pastry shop with joy and peace. And when He comes, the long-awaited one, I pray that he will fill the whole world with that same peace and joy.

Come, Lord Jesus!  

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