I recently read an article in Our Sunday Visitor that was summarized: “Prepare for the coming of Jesus as you would prepare for the birth of your own child.” God has granted me a unique perspective during this year’s Advent season, as I am, indeed, expecting the birth of my own child–and my due date is Christmas Day!
The following are some ways that my pregnancy is teaching me how to find hope, not only amidst the aches and pains of the third trimester, but also in the chaos of the Advent season.
1. Slowing Down
I make big babies. My biggest baby was nearly ten pounds at birth, and I remember times during that pregnancy that I would walk into a room and hear an audible gasp at my…well…hugeness. I’m grateful for my big, healthy babies, but they take a lot out of my normally small frame.
As our family prepares for Christmas this year, I can only handle putting out a few decorations at a time. I won’t be able to hike around much (if at all) at a tree farm to find the “perfect” Christmas tree, and spending hours in crowded stores Christmas shopping? Forget it.
I’ve had to slow down, I’ve had to create space, I’ve had to minimize. But rather than despairing that I can’t get my kids many gifts, or that I can’t bake dozens of cookies, or that my house won’t be clean come Christmas Day, I’m finding hope that I’ll teach my children to crave the joys of heaven, that I can nourish their souls with conversation while I sit and rest, and that we’ll see the joy of new life outshining dusty tabletops and smudged mirrors.
2. Immersion In Prayer
By slowing down, I’ve found more time for prayer. Prayer is something that becomes more essential as I prepare for a new baby. It is God who sustains and grows this new little being. It is God who gave us the gift of His Son Jesus, and it is God who continues to loan us His children–to bless us, to teach us, and to help us grow in holiness.
Through prayer, we allow ourselves to enter into the wonder of Advent. We find time to ponder the child God gave us–the child Mary surrendered for the good of the world. During pregnancy, prayer leads me down a path of trust, hope, and surrender. It brings me comfort as I sense the communion of saints working together to protect my child. It fills my heart with a longing to meet and raise my baby, and, most importantly, to raise my baby to one day be united with God in heaven.
So, too, does prayer during Advent remind us of our priorities. It carves out space during the busyness of the season so we can breathe, surrender, and hope with gleeful anticipation for the One who can truly satisfy.
3. Fasting and Sacrifice
I love coffee. And sharing a bottle of red wine with my husband. And DOING: caring for my family, bustling about to my older children’s activities, exercising until the sweat drips down my back.
During pregnancy, I have to think about someone other than myself every second of every day and with every decision I make. There are moments when giving up things I enjoy is difficult, but most of the time, it’s pretty easy. After all, this is my baby. I wouldn’t even think of putting my baby in danger, because I am filled with the hope of delivering a healthy child who will bring our family joy. A child who will make every sacrifice, every muscle spasm, and every contraction completely worth it.
Is this how we think of baby Jesus during the penitential season of Advent? Are we willing to make some sacrifices in order to show our Savior the kind of hope that He gives us?
4. Stay Awake!
Sleeping soundly becomes difficult during the last weeks of pregnancy. Body aches can come on with a vengeance in the dark of the night, baby’s kicks are getting stronger, and even mild contractions wake me up, making me wonder Is it time? This is the question Jesus reminds us to ask throughout Advent and the rest of our lives. “Stay awake! Be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.” (Mt. 24: 42, 44)
We are reminded to be vigilant and hopeful, that in any given moment, God would catch us perfectly fulfilling His will and ready to join Him in heaven.
5. Emptiness–Where Hope Flourishes
In preparation for our sixth child, I’ve found myself emptying rather than filling. We’re trying to make room. Thin the toy supply, only keep the baby clothes we really need, and focus on simply cleaning the home we have rather than major remodeling or adding another room.
So, too, during Advent do we clean our homes and our souls in preparation for our King. Our family has an empty manger and minimal decorations out right now. We’re planning times to receive the Sacrament of Confession. We’re making ourselves empty.
Because there is nothing like looking at those specially chosen baby clothes that are waiting to be worn. And there is nothing like looking at the empty manger that waits in hopeful expectation.
It is in emptiness, in the deepest sense of longing, that hope can truly flourish. It is only when we see the nothing that we can truly hope for the something. And during Advent, we can rest in the promise of something that is worth slowing down for, worth sacrificing for, and worth seeking through prayer and vigilance. The promise of a Savior, wrapped up in the joy of a baby. This is our hope.