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My days of hands-on childcare have come and gone, yet this Advent season, I am surrounded by babies and little ones, in the main virtually, but also in person. Next door baby Benjamin was born, a child with a black father and a white mother, adored and adorable. My peers are almost all grandparents, each year adding more to their tribes–Juliet, Asher, Joshua, Henry, Rosie and Alexander, among others. My hearts leaps up with Hope when I see or hear these little ones. I see Hope that something new and unrepeatable has been created, full of promise, untarnished as yet by the cares and pressures to which we as humans are heir.

Little ones give Hope with their eyes. Their watching everything that is shiny and new, without cynicism or boredom, lights up my own eyes.  If I can continue to look at each day, each person, each flower, bird and tree with the Hope that somethings precious is to be found there, I can replenish the Hope that so often threatens to die with the doom-saying media and the prognosticators of cloudiness.

Little ones give Hope with their vulnerability. They are willing to take love and nurture wherever it comes. There will be a time when they need to learn how to defend themselves, and to put their startle reflexes to good use. However, in the beginning they can trust that when food is offered, it is good food; that when warmth is offered, it can be nestled into, and that when smiles are shining, they mean good intentions and love. I would love to nurture a spirit of appropriate openness, one that radiates Hope.

Little ones are always learning, ever Hopeful that there is something new to be discovered–through their mouths, their hands, their skin–their own bodies. When they are moving as they should, they pave their way into becoming all they are meant to be. I want to keep Hopeful by continuing to learn about the world and those in it. I have had to learn much about my body this past six months, through surgery and accident, but on the other side of those challenges, I have deeper knowledge of how I am fearfully and wonderfully made, how the health of the earth contributes to my own health and how I need to participate in its on-going healing. I have also learned, incarnated in my own body, an intimation of what the senses and feelings are of so many who live with constant pain, suffering and challenge, and it has made me more compassionate and prayerful. And it has made me Hopeful that I can be an agent of healing or solace to the pain of others.

It is not accidental that in this Advent season our Hope begins with a little one, a Child, born wide-eyed, vulnerable and growing in favor with humanity and divinity. I see that it is not sentimentality that calls us to celebrate the birth of the Child, but that it is a statement of Hope. What and Who is born comes to give sight to our blindness, openness to our hyper-vigilance, and learned hearts for our own usefulness and capacity to heal in the broken world.

This week as we move into Christmas, I will be seeing and hearing little ones–my own grandchildren, those in the neighborhood, real and virtual, and those around the world. My own little Sadie who looks at me so intently in the photo above is now eight and a half years old, with personality, vision, intelligence and, most of all, love. And her growth gives me Hope–for her own contribution to the world, for her own future.  She and her brother and cousins, my grands, are Hope for me. As are Benjamin, Juliet, Asher, Joshua, Henry, Rosie and Alexander. What God began with the birth of a Child continues to bring Hope, Healing and Things that make for Peace.

May the signs of hope brighten these last days of Advent in you!