Advent. The season of waiting. As children, we’re waiting for the magic. For Christmas morning and Santa Claus and presents under the tree. As adults, we’re waiting for the coming of Jesus, our savior born into the world. We too have hope in the magic of Christmas, in the promise of peace on Earth and goodwill to all.
At least, on a good day. Some days it’s hard to remember that this season of waiting is joyful. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that there have been years where I felt like I was just waiting for the season to be over. To be done with the shopping, the baking, the general stress of the holidays. Admittedly, it’s not always easy for me to joyful at Christmas. (You can read more about my struggles with Christmas in this blog post.) But this year Advent, the season of waiting, has taken on a very different meaning for me.
You see, this year I’m not only waiting for Christmas. I’m also anxiously awaiting my own bundle of joy. The idea of a season dedicated to waiting for the coming of a child has suddenly given rise to new questions in my mind, and a new appreciation for the holy family’s plight.
While my little one won’t be born until about a month and a half after the holidays are over, I am very, very ready for her to be here. We often talk about pregnancy being a gift, which it truly is. But it is also a lot of very hard, very uncomfortable work. So this year, as I wait for the holidays, I can’t help thinking more and more about Mary. A young woman who was not only experiencing pregnancy, but also the knowledge that she was pregnant with the messiah. What kind of pressure must that be? Being pregnant at all brings with it all kinds of anxieties. Will I be a good parent? Will I raise my child well? Will they be a good person? While Mary knew she was carrying an exceptionally special baby, I’m sure her anxieties around having and raising him were also substantial.
Then, there’s the travel. That she and Joseph had to travel a long way, on a donkey, when she was nearly 9 months pregnant, seems impossible to me. At 7 months, I’m lucky I can walk from my car to my desk some mornings without having to stop for a break. What must that journey have been like for a pregnant Mary and Joseph? How uncomfortable must she have been, traveling a great distance of difficult terrain, a baby on the way?
And then, to arrive in Bethlehem, only to find that they had nowhere to stay! That Mary, ready to give birth at any time, would be turned away from a bed and a place of rest after her long and tiring journey. Just last week, a sister who I don’t often get to see was in my office, and she wished me a Merry Christmas and encouraged me to “steer clear of mangers” over the next few weeks. I laughed and told her I would do so, but it gave a new meaning to Mary’s situation. Today, those of us who are lucky have access to medical care and assistance when giving birth. Mary, on the other hand, didn’t even have a bed! She had a barn and the comfort of hay and animals to get her through the experience.
This newfound understand of Mary and the difficulties she must have faced have changed the way I think about Advent. And have reminded me that despite all the struggle and hardship, despite what she knew would be a difficult process, Mary still said “yes.” She said yes to the call of being the mother of God. She said yes to the months of discomfort, the sleepless nights and the labor pains.
In the same way, aren’t we all called to say “yes” to this holiday season? Despite the stress and the madness that can sometimes surround us, despite the difficulties we may encounter, the season of Advent is meant to be a time of waiting for the coming of a great joy. And isn’t joy worth the work?
About the Author
Elizabeth Powers is the Electronic Communications Manager for the Congregation of St. Joseph and manages the blog, Beyond the Habit. She sometimes acts as a contributing writer. She loves reading, writing, and Harry Potter. This Christmas, she is awaiting her own bundle of joy.