Walking the other day through the awesomely ugly yet somehow festive-this-time-of-year halls of the acres long, deep and wide building where I work, I was singing Christmas carols under my breath, blithely anticipating the holiday almost upon us. I got to, “Oh Come All Ye Faithful,” and was reminded of hand motions my wife and I used to accompany the carol’s chorus when we sang it many years ago at home with our three young children. Here’s how the motions went:
Oh (make the letter “O” with thumb and first finger)
come (a palm up hand with the fingers moving back and forth in the usual American-style beckoning motion)
let us (make the motion of eating salad from an imaginary bowl. Lettuce. Let us. Get it?)
adore (turn an imaginary door knob and open an imaginary door. A Door. Get it?)
Him (point upward)
Christ (touch each palm with the middle finger, the American sign-language sign for Jesus)
the Lord (again, point up).
As I was walking down the hall remembering this, likely by that point absentmindedly singing loud enough that people walking by were either heartened, amused, or worried for my sanity, I realized we had been teaching our children a sacred song, one part of our parental task, using puns. I think we were also teaching the joy of words and the art of humor, as holy a task as teaching the Faith and both, a brush with the Divine. Our children learned the song and we all laughed and enjoyed the word play. I wonder if we also gave thanks to the Creator of words whose birth as the Word we will celebrate soon.