Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, rejoice; let your forbearance be known to all, for the Lord is near at hand; have no anxiety about anything, but in all things, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known to God.
The third Sunday of Advent, when we light the pink candle, is called Gaudete Sunday (pronounced “gow – DAY – tay”). It means “rejoice” in Latin. Today we take a break from the prayerful preparation of this season just to simply rejoice in the miracle that’s about to take place and the wonderful event that’s coming.
I was thinking about Gaudete Sunday yesterday when I was working at the Keller Auditorium for the afternoon performance of The Nutcracker (I work for Oregon Ballet Theatre, so Nutcracker is kind of taking over my life lately). I was staffing the information table, where we have season brochures and a raffle and stuff, and we also sell autographed toe shoes and have a tutu from Swan Lake out for kids to touch and look at.
So yesterday I met this little girl named Megan who was six and a half and was in town from Tillamook with her aunt to see the ballet. She had never seen a ballet before, she had no idea what The Nutcracker was about, and she was like BESIDE herself with excitement before the show. When I told her she could touch the toe shoes and the tutu, I thought she would just about pass out. It was so cute. Her eyes got HUGE and she literally gasped with amazement like twelve hundred times, and she kept saying stuff like, “I can’t believe it! I can’t believe I get to touch a real ballerina dress! I’ve never seen anything this pretty in my whole life! Can you believe it’s so pretty and you get to touch it? Can you touch it whenever you want? Are those real ballerina shoes? Can I really touch them? They’re so pretty! I want to hug them! Do you know real ballerinas? I can’t believe it!” She was just completely overwhelmed with the wonder and magic and excitement . . . of the lobby at the Keller Auditorium. Like, the show hadn’t started yet. (She did, however, come back at intermission to jump up and down with excitement about the snow onstage at the end of Act One. I also got a dancer to autograph a postcard for her, and I really did think she might fall down or something, she was just so thrilled.) Then she heard me talking to a woman who was making a donation to the ballet (another part of my job), and six-and-a-half-year-old Megan from Tillamook said, “All I have is a penny. Would you like my penny?” and I seriously thought I would cry, it was so sweet. She only had a penny in her little purse but she was so excited and joyous that she wanted to share what she had with somebody else, and that was the only thing she had.
The ballet staff complains a lot about working shifts at Nutcracker. It’s incredibly crowded and rushed. You have to run around after groups of sometimes super-bratty children (I had a couple of Veruca Salts on opening night – “Daddy, buy me a pair of toe shoes NOW!”, complete with tantrums and tears), which is exhausting. No one wants to be downtown in horrible weather. And worst of all, we are there in the evenings and on the weekends, which takes time away from our own families. With all the other things I could be doing with my time during this busy season, it can be a major nuisance. For me, it might be just a long five hours on my feet in heels . . . but for Megan, it was hands-down the most exciting day of her life.
I kept that penny. I stashed it in the cash bag at the info table so all the staff could see it, and I told them all about Megan. I want to remember the joy and amazement and wonder on that little girl’s face every time I feel whiny about having to work on a Saturday night. It was a nice little wake-up call from God to remind me what this season is about – the anticipation of something amazing and breathtakingly spectacular that’s about to take place. It’s about just pure joy at the miracle that’s going to happen.
Gaudete . . . Rejoice.
Christmas is coming, the Savior will be born, and all the little dumb stuff like traffic and working on weekends and how cold it is (but yet somehow not snowing, what’s with that?) and endless errands won’t matter. The Lord is coming. I want to be as overwhelmed with joy and amazement by that as Megan from Tillamook was by a 20-year-old Swan Lake tutu. Can we all do that? I feel like we can.
Megan looked at the sequins and feathers and tulle in front of her and saw pure magic. Those moments exist all around us if we just know where to look. So I challenge you, and I challenge me too, to make this Gaudete week all about that joy. Let’s all, no matter how old we are, try to find that childlike wonder and hang on to it. (I think maybe the harder it is to find, the more we need it. Don’t you think?)