On this day two years ago, I was about 4 weeks pregnant and hardly anyone knew. During a season full of so much anticipation and joy, the experience of being newly pregnant at Christmas time was simply magical. The experience also had me thinking quite a bit about the Virgin Mary, and her own first pregnancy.
A few days after I learned I was pregnant, I wrote a not-so-subtle post called I Wonder If Mary Had Morning Sickness (and some of you picked up on the hint almost right away. ha!). Today, two Advents later, I find myself returning to that question, and questions like it.
In movies and on television, pregnancy is cute and labor is short. Pregnant celebrities manage to look glamorous, even at nine months along. And because it makes for a good story, Hollywood depicts women rushing to the hospital, frantically hoping to make it in the nick of time.
In reality, pregnancy is not glamorous, and labor is almost never that fast. For most women, pregnancy is hard and labor is long. Very long. For some women it can last for days.
Today is Christmas Eve, which means that, this time 2000-ish years ago, Mary would have been in labor. It is not as though she and Joseph arrived at the manger and, 3 hours later, Jesus was born. Not likely, anyway. And all this, after having been pregnant for 9 months, wondering, waiting, and anticipating the birth of her god-son.
Although we never talk about Advent this way, pregnancy figures at the center of this season. During Advent, we enter into the journey of Mary’s pregnancy. Each year we begin the season of Advent by preparing and waiting, just as Mary did. For some of us, the waiting is exciting, while for others it is excruciating. Sometimes it is both. But I cannot think of a better metaphor for the anticipation of this time than the very one given to us by God–a young mother, anxiously waiting to give birth.
It’s a powerful metaphor, which is why the writers of Scripture used it a lot. The prophets often compared the suffering of the Israelites to the suffering of labor, and in Isaiah 42 God compares His own anguish at the Israelites’ destruction to the anguish of a woman preparing to deliver. Then in Isaiah 45:9-10, the image of a woman in labor is used as a metaphor for God, who gave birth to Israel.
By using these metaphors, God draws on the female experience to express who He is, and Advent is one season in which that is especially true.
But it’s not the only season.
Today is the last day of Advent. Tomorrow we will celebrate the birth of our Savior, and then it will be another year before we walk this path of waiting and anticipation. But for some of you, tomorrow is not the end of your waiting. Some of you will continue in a season of “pregnancy,” of waiting, anticipating, fearing, and wondering. Others of you are in a season of labor, that gritty, white-knuckled season in which, out of suffering, God will give birth to something new.
If you find yourselves in either one of those seasons, the season of Advent has this to say: God sees you. He knows about this season of yours, because He has walked it Himself. He has labored, and He has given birth. He has also written a story at which a young mother’s pregnancy and labor figures at the center. Waiting, suffering, and creating new life is a common human experience that even God has shared.
So wherever you find yourself a week from now, after the festivities have died down and life returns to normal but your waiting continues, know that God is there. He is. He sees you. And He is at work. He will bring light into the darkness, just as He has done before.
Because Jesus isn’t the only gift we celebrate at Christmas. We also celebrate the gift of the story, which God has been re-enacting again and again ever since. God is writing your story, which means that your pregnancy, your labor–God will bring life out of it.
Merry Christmas, my friends!