Painting a Thousand Words of Grace – An Advent Lesson

Expectancy of holy heart, in quiet moments set apart,
makes room for Him who came for all as tiny babe in manger stall.

by Paula Zwenger

Quantity does not equal quality. We were several years into family life before proof of this truth presented itself on our doorstep by way of participation in a children’s marigold_garden_pictures_and_rhymes_1910_14566514398Christmas pageant.

Too much of a good thing?

As a young family, opportunities abounded for holiday related preparation. Many were offered through our parish community (Advent family night, Posada, caroling, etc.), but some were part of school or extracurricular commitments. We attended everything.

Before long, our combined activities had us spending more time at practices, rehearsals and presentations than we were spending at home. We knew Christmas was coming, but we were busy, for goodness sake, with all these wonderful activities in which we’d committed to take part.

Captured for Posterity

One year, after dress rehearsal, someone captured a candid shot of my then five year old daughter. She is sitting on the altar step in her angel costume, wings akimbo, halo askew, chin firmly cupped in hands, legs arranged in less than ladylike fashion, appearing weary to the bone.

Likely I was busy somewhere intent on other details…too busy to notice the toll our hectic Advent activity schedule was taking on her.

I’ve pondered this shot annually for over twenty eight years as an examination as Advent begins. It helps answer the questions of how best to spend time in efforts to welcome Christ.

Will the beauty of a rich liturgical heritage be embraced or will we squander the grace of the season on weariness of a worldly kind? Will contemplation, meditation, and wonder be paramount or will a hectic schedule of activities bring our family to the brink of exhaustion?

I keep this precious reminder packed away with our Advent decorations. It finds prominent display space with wreath, candles, and empty crèche, from the first day of each new liturgical year, as a reminder to keep Advent well.

Symbols and signs of faith and family provide valuable encouragement as we enter again into a new liturgical year.  Mementos from seasons past provide a timely reminder that we don’t have to chase after the ‘right’ activities to experience God. He is here, waiting patiently, for us to welcome Him into our hearts and lives.

We find Him in music and pageants, surely; but also through quiet daily prayers at home and sacrifices offered in secret, softening our hearts to become anew His manger bed.


Waiting for Jesus like Mary

Expectancy of holy heart, in quiet moments set apart,
makes room for Him who came for all as tiny babe in manger stall.

In Advent days of waiting well we visit stories meant to tell
of God incarnate. Blend our gaze to Love beyond the present days.

No tinseled wrap could well adorn the gift received on Christmas morn;
our swaddled Savior, Mary’s face; a tableau of indwelling grace.

We pause, and offer daily tasks designed to help in what He asks:
to love Him first with all we are, then love each neighbor near or far.

Each waited day, in blest delight, we rush to serve with Mary’s sight;
to honor and uphold His will, remembering His coming, still.

From first to last, our Advent plan, we pray for heart of every man.
No rush to fall, no wearied way. Come quickly Lord, we pray. We pray.


Paula Zwenger
is a wife, mother, and grandmother who, upon finding herself an empty nester, tried on the hat of rhyme loving writer. It fit very well. Her joy manifests completely while taking the ups and downs of life and wrangling them into poetry. She also has a passion for creating rhymed treasure hunts with a Catholic flare to celebrate the faith and learn a thing or two along the way. You can find her musings at

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