Updated: Dec 12, 2019
Recently my eight-year-old son wrote me a note prior to a trip I’d be taking which meant I would be away from home for a few days. The day before my flight, at dinner time, I sat down at the table and saw an envelope sitting at my place. It read simply: To dad…From Peter. He had written it a few hours earlier but was waiting patiently and with great anticipation for the right moment to give it to me. I’d like to report that he received more joy in giving me this beautiful gift than I found in reading it. But, as you will see, any parent who receives such a gem will understand its incomparable value. It read: Dear Dad, I hope you know you will do good on your defense. You have worked very hard on it. I’m almost done with the book rump. When I finish it you’ll be able to use it whenever you want to read it. I love you so much and hope you have a good day. I’ll miss you when you’re in Ohio. But I know that you’ll do good on it. love, Your Son Peter LOVE YOU DAD
I had been spending every spare moment over the previous few months on a thesis paper which eventually involved defending it in front of a panel. He knew I had been stressed out over it and, when I saw his note, it helped to put things into perspective. I remember thinking to myself that even if the defense does not go well and for some reason I do not pass, at least I have my family and all I can do is my best.
During the weeks and months before he gave me this note, I noticed that he had been doing a lot of writing in a little spiral notebook, creating short stories and practicing his handwriting. One Saturday I took him with me to a coffee shop while I worked on my paper. I couldn’t help but notice the way he proceeded to enjoy his hot chocolate while diligently writing away.
It stirred in me a sense of pride because I knew he was trying to be like his dad. Over the last sixteen years, I’ve had my share of proud moments as a father, but I’ve encountered failures as well. I am continually having to face my shortcomings as a parent. However, every once in a while I am struck by something like this beautiful moment and I think to myself, “I’m doing ok at this.”
It is this reality that kept coming to mind when I reflected on the scriptures from the second Sunday of Advent. “On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom. The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, a spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the Lord, and his delight shall be the fear of the Lord.”
One of a parent’s greatest desires is that their children will bloom where they are planted, that they will continually grow in their faith and find wisdom, peace, and joy. As parents we try so hard to set them up for success, loving them to the best of our ability and trying to prepare them for life. This is a huge responsibility and sometimes feels a bit overwhelming.
Considering how the God of the universe became human illustrates for us the intimate nature of a God who places great significance upon parents and their children. Even Jesus learned at the feet of Mary and Joseph.
With each passing year, I become more aware of the spiritual meaning that Advent holds and the rich interior treasures that Jesus longs to give me. Being a father has taught me how flawed I am, but has also given me the great joy of receiving unexpected expressions of love like the one from my eight-year-old son.
We can learn so much from watching our children’s joy in anticipation of Christmas morning. Let this season find us ready to receive the Gift.