Last year Advent was a very special time for me. A child taught me, in a way only a child can, something precious, something true about the birth we all await.
Peter was born the day after Christmas four years ago. Had he tried a little harder, two hours and four minutes harder to be exact, he would have been born on the same day as Jesus. But he didn't, and he wasn't. It was not his last act of stubborn resistance.
Ever since his birth, I always looked forward to the all-too-rare times when his parents, Bob and Jackie, would leave town for a much-needed spiritual retreat and allow me to stay with Pete while they were gone.
Not that Pete was an angel; no, he certainly was not that. Nor did I find it an easy thing to do; he would keep me so busy and run me so wild that I was exhausted by the time Bob and Jackie returned. I think staying with Pete was a joy because in his fun-loving way he would invariably, no matter how I was feeling, bring out the child in me. Sometimes he would have to pull and pull, almost wrenching it out of me, but it always came.
I'm not sure Peter felt as good about me substituting as his parent as I did. One of the first times I stayed with him, he was still small enough to be given a bath in the kitchen sink. I misread Jackie's instructions to put one drop of baby oil in the bath water and put in one capful. By the end of the bath Pete's body was one shiny little greaseball with beads of water clinging to him everywhere. After several moments of staring at himself, a quizzical look came over his face, and he gazed up at me in stunned surprise. He couldn't talk yet, but there was no doubt about what he was thinking: "My parents left me with you!"