Advent is all about waiting. We wait, with joyful anticipation, for the birth of Jesus. However, the kind of waiting that takes place in Advent is somewhat unique. Usually with any kind of wait, there is a measure of anxiety associated with it. We wonder how exactly it will turn out, or if the thing we are waiting on will even happen at all. There is excitement, but there is worry as well.
But not so much with Advent. We are waiting, yes, but we know what is going to happen. Jesus will be born, Jesus will be crucified and die, and most importantly, Jesus will rise again and destroy death forever. So then, Advent waiting becomes joyful anticipation. There is no anxiety in waiting on the Christ child, because we know what will happen, we know that he will happen.
Mary, however, did not experience the “Advent” of her pregnancy with joyful anticipation. Or rather, not with only joyful anticipation. Imagine: a young virgin, betrothed, but not to consummate, is found to be pregnant in a time and culture which kills unmarried women for being pregnant. She knows the truth of who her child is, and where He has come from, but to all others, her story is insane.
Imagine the rumors that must have flown around about young Mary. That she and Joseph just couldn’t wait and were horrible sinners, or worse, that perhaps she had been raped by a Roman soldier, and had created this tale in an attempt to spare her family shame. As my parish priest said in a recent homily, “Baseball is not the national pastime, talking about people is.” Human nature, being what it is, I can’t imagine it was much different in 1st century Palestine. There are vultures everywhere, who will chomp down on any sort of scandal and ride it until it’s dead.
So Mary, not only fearing the reaction of her parents and Joseph, had to wait in fear for the reaction of the town. Would they stone her? Refuse to buy from her family, causing destitution? Would Joseph accuse her?
Then, Joseph believed her. She waited, and God provided. She was able to continue her pregnancy confident that she would not be stoned, and that Joseph would accept and believe her.
Of course, Mary being dedicated to the Temple by her parents at an early age would have meant that she, unlike most women of the day, would have learned to read the Torah. She was a devout girl, and so, when she consented to bear the Messiah, there was great joy! She had spent years reading the words of the prophets about the Messiah, and she knows that the hope of her people is curled up asleep in her womb. **Just pause and think about that one…woah**
It’s sort of fascinating to me to think that Mary’s Advent was filled with much more uncertainty than any of the Advent’s we will experience. As her due date drew closer, I can only imagine the questions that arose in her mind. How can I be the mother of God? Will I be able to teach Him anything, or give Him anything? How will we know when He is different? What will happen to Him? To me?
Yet ultimately, the joy in her heart at the arrival of a Messiah must have overridden her fears. Her waiting, with anxious heart, gave way to joyful anticipation because she knew that God would come through for her and her people. She was the living proof of that.
So what does this have to do with anything, other than being some good food for thought? Funny you should ask…
As I’ve blogged about here, I had a miscarriage in March. Atticus and I were not trying to get pregnant; actually, we were planning to wait “about a year” before we had children, because we wanted to have time to adjust to being married, we knew we’re be moving, Atticus wasn’t working, and I was still in school when we got married. BUT, God’s plan was different. And were were NFP novices. (Please note, I am saying that NFP works, we did not work). Of course, we lost that pregnancy, our son Michael.
It has been 9 months since then, and we have been trying again to conceive for about 3 months. What’s drawn my attention to God’s sense of propriety is that I experienced that miscarriage during Lent, and for the first time in my life, had an experience of suffering in which I felt, the entire time, that God was inviting me to join my suffering with His.
And now, several months later, we are trying to conceive again, without success thus far. It’s Advent, the time of joyful anticipation, and here I am, waiting. *shakes finger at God, saying, “You’re good, you know that?”*
Is it a co-incidence that I am literally waiting for some good news during the liturgical season of joyful anticipation? I think not. But am I thrilled? Not so much.
You see, I lost my very first pregnancy, and while the doctor told us that it was the kind of miscarriage that is most common (sometimes called blighted ovum), and that I would “most likely” go on to have healthy children, I have clamped down hard on that “most likely” and turned it into a “probably never”. I am very good at this.
Rather than feeling relatively certain that I’ll have one (or more) healthy pregnancies in the future (as Atticus has felt), I see each passing month without a pregnancy as a personal failure and further proof of the idea that I will never be a mother. I’m not trying to throw myself a pity party here; I realize I’m being absurd, but I’m an emotional person with a melancholic temperament. It’s a lethal combination when it comes to waiting or uncertainty.
Elizabeth at That Married Couple, has just written a wonderful post about cultivating the virtue of humility, including a litany of humility she has been praying. Well, if there’s a litany of patience, somebody send it to me, because I need it!
It pains me to admit it, but I’m fearful that God won’t come through for us. That God will deny us the child we long for. Or worse, that God can somehow see that I will not be a good mother, and is therefore not going to gift us with a child.
In all probability, Atticus and I will probably have at least one child. But, I am an impatient American, and I want what I want…and right now, please. This is bad. I know this attitude is bad, and will not make my dream come true any faster.
I wish I could be more like Mary, and continue to trust in God’s goodness, even in the midst of anxiety and doubt about how things will turn out.
I am going to wrap up this crazy ramble with a request for prayers, and also, any advice from anyone who has had to wait with uncertainty for something good that they wanted. What did you do to sustain your faith in God’s goodness, even if you did not get what you wanted then (or ever)?
Thanks for listening!