From a Facebook conversation I had with our priest this week…my reflections on the Advent Season:
The idea of treating Advent like an active waiting and preparing season makes me (of course!) liken it to the late stages of pregnancy. Pregnancy is one long waiting and preparing season. I think, too, of what it must have been like for Mary in those remaining days: full of excitement, trepidation, wonder…
In maternity care, we talk about the difference between “Expectant Management” of labor and “Active Management.” (Basically, it’s the difference between the more hands-off, gentle and expectant-presence approach midwives tend to take vs. active, interventive methods employed by most OBs.) When I think of the advent season, I can apply both of these ideas: waiting to celebrate Christ’s birthday, we ought to be expectant: watching, observing, contemplating, preparing. Is it fair to say this quiet, contemplative approach is better than the “active” approach of bustling around: shopping, wrapping gifts, stressing over holiday feast preparations and begrudged family obligations?
Another thought I had today is to contemplate what must have been going through Mary’s mind during the remaining month prior to Christ’s birth (the month which we now call “Advent.”) Can you imagine the anticipation of not only waiting to meet your child for the first time, but the Child King of the World? If only we could all approach the Advent Season with the same level of anticipation and wonder Mary likely felt.
Impatience is a common problem for women in the remaining weeks of pregnancy: physical exhaustion, poor sleep, stomach upset, joint aches and pains…these can all add to a woman’s excitement for pregnancy to be over. In terms of Christmas, these aches and pains are translated into those mentioned above: tired feet from long-winded shopping sprees, exasperated emotions over creating holiday plans, financial strain from too much gift buying, sleep disturbances due to the stress of trying to wrap up end-of-year work tasks and, again we see what ought to be a peaceful, contemplative time turned frazzled and pressured.
I don’t mean to entirely romanticize Mary’s journey, nor simplify the present-day Christmas season: Mary had to travel a great distance on a donkey’s back (or some other beast of burden; or on foot) while in the remaining days of pregnancy. Most women I know can hardly stand to ride in a car over a bumpy road during the last trimester of pregnancy. I can only imagine Mary’s exhaustion, paired with trepidation about the up-coming childbirth process–one that was extremely deadly for many women in that time period. Modern day women worry over how their babies will fair during the childbirth process; I can only imagine the burden Mary must have felt at the responsibility of bringing forth God’s Son into the world, safe and sound—and amidst significant travel and poor sleeping accommodations. And, yet, what a wonderful burden. What an honor: the chosen one to bring Emanuel into the world for the benefit of all humankind.
Perhaps the penitent part of Advent is our burden: preparing ourselves through complex thought and challenging core honesty, for the transformation that Advent has the ability to bring about in each one of us. Childbirth, too, has the power to bring about immense change in a woman’ life, psyche and self knowledge (not to mention the loving support person(s) present during the birth). As we prepare to celebrate the birth of The King, can we also celebrate our own birth (transformation) into Christianity…made possible by Emanuel, the Christ child, God Is With Us?