by Linda Ryan
It’s finally Advent, my favorite liturgical season of the whole year. It’s kind of like fall being my favorite regular season. There’s a feeling of expectation, not quite like the expectation of spring, but after a long hot summer, a bit of crispness in the air, leaves falling from at least some of the trees, and the fact that colored lights are popping up everywhere, signaling that Christmas is just around the corner. It makes for a time of anticipation, at least for me.
Advent is season where we celebrate the anticipation of the coming of the Christ child. It’s just a little bit like being pregnant. You’ve got this little being or this little feeling deep inside and, as it grows, your heart expands to accommodate it. Take a look next time you go out. Look at the pregnant woman. Often you will see them gently rubbing the bump that is growing inside them. You also see her standing there with her hand on their belly, as if to convey a feeling of touch to the little one inside. I know that feeling. I experienced it when I was pregnant with my son, and I still remember it, even decades later. It’s that feeling of expectation, of wonder, and of maybe a little anxiety, when the new mother stops to think getting the baby here is one thing, raising it for the next 18 to 21 years is going to be something else entirely.
But yet, there’s that period of expectation, the time of dreaming and hoping. Pregnancy is a time for reflection, and Advent incorporates a lot of those emotions and reflections. It’s when hopes and dreams are born, just as surely as the day will come when that little bulge in the belly becomes a citizen of the world and a voice to be heard quite literally.
Advent is quiet season, a season to contemplate instant internal growth, and to think about topics we may not get all that much consideration to and the rest of the year. You know, things like hope, and kindness, manners, and doing things for other people, even if there’s nothing they can do for us in return. The time when people in stores or on the street are a little more likely to say “Excuse me,” “Thank you,” or even “Happy holidays”. That last one gets a lot of people’s goats. It’s only supposed to be “Merry Christmas” according to some. But not everyone is Christian; they have their own celebrations, and we do not honor them when we insist that it has to be Merry Christmas. That’s not what season is about. We can’t just flip a switch at midnight on Christmas Eve and have peace on earth, goodwill to all humankind appear like a pea popping out of a pod. We only achieve those things where we have placed the most hope.
You know, looking at pictures of pregnant women around the world, even in places where war and famine control exists, you can still see women rubbing the belly or gently holding their hand as if cradling that new life already. That’s the closest thing to hope that many of them have, and for many of them it may cost their lives, but for that moment in time they have hope.
Advent is our season of pregnant waiting, the season that we share with the Blessed Virgin in her time of expectation. It can’t have been easy for her not only to tell her parents what was happening, but also to endure the stares and probably whispers behind her back. Still, she held to God’s promise, and lived in hope. It sounds funny when it’s put that way, but she went from puzzlement to trust and found her child was born in hope. She walked through each day of her pregnancy, rubbing her belly and cradling it as she would cradle the new child. She had faith, and she lived in hope.
This Advent we have need of hope probably more than we have for a very, very long time. It’s difficult for us to see beyond tomorrow even beyond this afternoon sometimes. We hold our breath sometimes in expectation of what’s going to happen and wonder, is this a good thing or a bad thing? Is this hope that we carry going to bring fulfillment, or will our hopes be crushed? Mary and Joseph felt that especially on their trip to Bethlehem. They didn’t know what they were getting into, or at least, they had little idea of what they were getting into. But they went as they were instructed, did the best they could, and found hope in the fact that there was a private place where a young mother-to-be could strain and cry out and deliver a child who would become the hope of the world.
This Advent, think about the little seed of hope we all carry within us and how we can nurture that hope so that in due time we will bring forth a vision of hope that will encompass the world. We can succeed if our strength, comfort, and even our expectations are God-
Let Advent mature like a baby in the womb, nurtured and protected because one day that hope will be born and we will finally know the joy of seeing hope fulfilled.