Sunday, Dec. 4:
AM Psalm 148, 149, 150; PM Psalm 114, 115;
Amos 6:1-14; 1 Thess. 5:1-12; Luke 1:57-68
My days are shaped now by one imminent reality: any moment our fourth
baby could be born (and might already have come by the time you read
this). Each night I tuck the kids in, I tidy their rooms extra-well, thinking,
“How will the sitters find them in the morning if we have to go tonight?” Each
time I empty the trash, change the sheets on the bed, go to the grocery store, I
wonder if this will be the last time I do that chore before baby arrives.
Living with such imminent yet vague deadlines can be both an exercise in focus
and clarity. It can also be an exercise in exhaustion. I do not waste much time
these days. If I have a spare moment, I am cleaning out a cupboard or closet,
wiping down a drawer, organizing my spice rack. As Hudson said with a groan,
“Oh no. Mom’s nesting again.” And to all the un-pregnant people in my household, I recognize this has been one long month of chore-lists and exercises in readiness: household projects tackled, rooms re-organized, clothes washed and set aside for this new little one.
But there is the 4 AM side as well, when I lie awake and wonder if I am prepared
for the physical and emotional rigor of the days ahead. I know something
of what to expect from child-birth, though each time can be so different. I
remember something about exhaustion and all-nighters and crying. But the
memory is vague and I wonder if I am again ready to meet the needs of a newborn.
Not all aspects of my waiting parallel Mary’s. Yet there are some universal realities of pregnancy. As your body hosts the growth and development of another human, it encourages you physically and emotionally to prepare for the little person’s arrival. Mary had to be thinking, What in the world am I doing taking this trip far from my home when this baby is near-due?
Right now if I go even to the grocery store I think, “What if my water breaks
here?” And then this terribly awkward scene comes in to my head of shoppers
and workers trying to not be completely undone by the awfully pregnant woman
with three children obviously in labor in the middle of Trader Joe’s. It is enough
to make me want to mail-order my groceries from now until the end.
But here was Mary, traveling all the way to Bethlehem, an approximately 80-
mile trip from Nazareth—by donkey no less, which is simply unfathomable to
me at this stage. I do suppose the long journey gave her time to prepare in her
heart for the arrival of the baby. It is one thing to think: I am going to bring
forth a baby, who may or may not be well, who will cry and need me endlessly
at first, and then go through stages of rebellion and self-will until one day they
leave my house and may or may not recognize all the work it took to raise them
until they have their own children.
That is one challenge. But to think: I am bringing forth in to the world the Son
of the Living God who will save all nations? Mary must have been so far past organizing her cupboards in order to prepare for that. Maybe what she needed was a long quiet bumpy ride to steady herself for the task of raising God. Somehow having all the dessert forks in one section of my silverware drawer and the dinner forks in another has seemed like an essential part of my baby-preparation; maybe for Mary a three-week uncomfortable journey with time to meditate on what it would take to raise a perfect human was just what she needed.
Each year Advent provides me with the opportunity to simulate Mary’s journey
of waiting, preparedness and expectation–even if I am not alphabetizing my
spices to make ready for a baby’s arrival. Is the arrival of the Long-Expected
One shaping the way I feather my nest and quiet my heart this Advent? I hope
(Today’s exercise: Call to mind one thing that has “arrived” in your life, for
which perhaps you have long desired. Then call to mind one thing you’re still
“hoping” for. Thank God for both of these things and ask him to give you renewed grace to keep hoping.)