Claire Daniel reflects on the importance of small things in these last days of Advent
Back in October we were carving pumpkins, preparing to shine light in our community at Halloween. While we tidied up, my eight year old son picked up the heart and cross shaped pieces we had cut out and said, ‘the heart is bigger than the cross because love is bigger than death.’ This observation has stayed with me, a simple yet powerful reminder that God’s love is greater than death.
In these last days of Advent we are preparing again to celebrate light and the love that came to dwell among us, as a tiny baby. Jesus, our Immanuel, God with us: the long awaited Messiah who did not arrive as a King in great splendour or a mighty warrior. The greatest love the world has ever known came in a small parcel, filled with the power of heaven but wrapped in all the frailties of human kind. This tiny being held all the power of God – to raise the dead to life, to heal, to comfort, to overcome death and rise to resurrected glory – within a vulnerable human form.
It’s incredible to think that from before we are born our DNA is shaped and we have the potential within us to grow in so many ways. I remember looking at my son as a new born baby, wondering what this tiny person would one day become. The thought inspired one of the reflections in my book Prayer Journey into Parenthood. What would he look like as a man? What passions, hopes and dreams would this little person come to have?
Great things often begin small. It’s a cliché, but true, that a mighty oak tree begins as a tiny acorn. Some of our biggest plans begin with a fleeting thought. The prophet encourages us to ‘not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.’ (Zechariah 4:10)
We can often feel small and insignificant. Comparing our achievements or the success of our ministry to that of others can leave us feeling inadequate. Yet there is real strength in the small. Mother Theresa said, ‘do small things with great love’, reminding us never to underestimate the worth of small gestures imbued with love. A smile, a phone call, some flowers, stopping long enough to ask someone how they are, taking time to listen and encourage them. These small things that are often huge gifts to a person in need, bringing joy, hope and, in some situations, transformation.
This year, the Advent theme of waiting patiently in the dark for light to come has been ever more resonant. Now, as we prepare to celebrate the coming of that tiny human baby, in all his frailty and vulnerability, yet full of the love that would overcome death, may we understand anew the power of small acts done with great love.
Claire Daniel is author of 80 Reflective Prayer Ideas, 80 Creative Prayer Ideas and Prayer Journey into Parenthood. She is passionate about encouraging others to use creative prayer methods and speaks at conferences and leads workshops on the subject of prayer.