What does “Old MacDonald”, a cracker, and the Baby Jesus have in common with one another? Well, the uncanny ability to soothe a crying child, and a lesson to teach us this Advent.

It had been a while since we had seen one-year old Baby Grace* and her mom Emma*. So we scheduled a visit at our lower Manhattan apostolic center, during which we took advantage of the time to plan a fun Christmas photo shoot. The setting was perfect: Grace dolled up in a red plaid holiday dress, seated next to an artificial tree on our plush, apple-green, loveseat. There even was a children’s Nativity set placed within arms’ reach on the coffee table. The stage was set. Then suddenly, Grace’s little lip quivered, and her long-lashed brown eyes began to water.

But Emma, being the mom she is, saw the impending cry and whispered softly from across the room, “Her favorite song is Old MacDonald.

Cue the three sisters in the parlor for an impromptu schola performance! We huddled together and began singing an animated version of the children’s classic. We crooned with a cacophony of animal noises and exaggerated expressions while Grace looked at us, wide eyed. Tears halted and she was transfixed by the trio of what was undeniably three very silly sisters. A sister handed her a large circular Goya cracker, and she took it in her hand, toying it, as the singing continued in the background. Some photos were snapped, Grace on the sofa, the Nativity scene in the foreground. As a final touch, we handed her the smiling Christ Child. She took the Baby Jesus in her other hand and immediately put him in her mouth, content to be further soothed by this make-shift pacifier.

In this year, fraught with unforeseen and unprecedented crisis, we can learn so much from Grace. Grace was feeling sad, perhaps a little tired or overwhelmed in her new environment, and not yet familiar with the new faces before her.

But Grace didn’t pretend everything was ok. She cried, and she made known her need and her inability to console herself. In this time of uncertainty, with ten months of pandemic behind us and unknown months ahead, we need to honestly tell Jesus how we are feeling. Maybe we need to tell Him how we are hurting, or how we need Him to strengthen us and give us new hope.

This encounter with Grace and Emma became a lens for us Sisters to see the Nativity scene anew. A real “Old MacDonald” experience where cow and donkey, pig and lamb were neighbors to the newborn Son of God. Thankfully like Grace, we have a Mom who whispers softly to us like Emma. The Blessed Mother knows what we need. She not only sees our sorrows, she is with us in our sorrows, to console us, to arrange things in such a way that we are cared for and known. And the Christ child invites us to surrender control and instead to trust the goodness of our provident Father who supplies all we need. A cracker reminds us of the gift of the Christ Child and His Presence with us in the Holy Eucharist. Like Grace’s instinct to place the baby Jesus in her mouth, let us yearn for His Presence in the Eucharist within us. He is the One that truly satisfies us and proclaims to us that we are not alone! He truly is Emmanuel, God-with-us.

This Advent, let us cry out to God in honest supplication, willing to voice the vulnerabilities of our heart, and to plead for renewed vigor, trusting that God is faithful. This year, let us praise the Father with gratitude for His many gifts to us, for His providence and love. Let us thank Him for giving us a mother to comfort us in sorrow, and for sending His only begotten Son to be one of us. Let us adore Him present in the stable at Bethlehem and forever present with us in the stunning gift of the Eucharist.

Jesus, we await your coming this Christmas with eager anticipation and joy, for You are the Light of the World, and the only One that can cast out the darkness, both in the world and in our hearts. Open our eyes to see the signs and foreshadowing of your coming that are all around us in our daily lives, Renew our hope that because You came to us, and continue to come to us, that all will be well, no matter what our circumstances may be this Christmas, for You are enough. 

* Names changed for confidentiality