By Carol Younger
Here we are again, First Sunday of Advent. It’s easy to fall into the ordinary routine of Christmas preparations. After all, it’s a family and national traditional holiday: special foods and meals, special expected parties and events, special gift lists and givings. Is the Christmas shopping done? Are the cards printed, addressed, and stamped? Travel tickets bought to go where you will celebrate? Wait. Full Stop.
Where and with whom will you celebrate and remember the Holy Day of His Birth? Because that’s what it all about, this Advent, celebrating the first coming of the Savior. And anticipating the Second Coming, remember that second part of Advent preparations.
I have a personal reason to emphasize the first coming of the Baby Jesus. Some many years ago, I was pregnant during Advent and not expecting to deliver in December. God’s timing challenged the doctor’s expected due date, however. So, at Advent, I always remember our first-born son, due in January. In the middle of that December, the nurse during a particular office visit said – to sort of encourage a first-time mother-to be – “Pregnancy isn’t terminal. There’s a baby coming out of this.” It sort of jolted me to hear that there was good news coming.
So every Advent to Christmas, I think of our first-born, and his early entrance on December 23rd. He “came out of all this.” We were far from home, our parents at the other end of the country, we in a tiny apartment in Washington, DC. I spent Christmas in the hospital, and my husband came each evening on the bus to visit from December 22nd through the 30th. Even the car was trapped in the parking lot under the worst snowstorm in 30 years. It had taken two hours to go 10 miles from the doctor’s office to the hospital. Finally discharged on the 30th, I returned with hemorrhaging on the 31st. Finally in mid-January, I came home on bed rest. Not an auspicious beginning for a preemie and a first-time mother. But looking back on it from this year’s perspective, I can see all the wisdom of God’s grace in the moment. For two newlyweds, this isolation and separation from all the familiar and routine bonded us as nothing else might have. Quite naturally, in the circumstances, we turned to prayer and each other.
And naturally, every Advent, I reflect on Mary and her First-born. What was she doing in the middle of her December pregnancy? She was probably like me, wondering exactly where and when the ending of all this pregnancy business would be. But unlike me, she was sure of many other things along the way to Bethlehem. She knew the prophecies, and Micah’s (2:5) stood out for her: Bethlehem Ephrathah, you are small among the clans of Judah; one will come from you to be ruler over Israel for me. His origin is from antiquity, from ancient times. The Angel had told her that her Son would be a King and rule his people, coming from the city of David, His ancestor, and hers as well. And she knew Jeremiah (33:14-16) told the truth: Judah shall be safe, and Jerusalem shall dwell secure.
Sustained by the prophecies, what then would have been her prayerful petition? Why the very psalm we sing today: Teach me your paths, Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my savior…The friendship of the Lord is with those who are in awe of him and his covenant. And that’s my continued prayer not only for my first-born Advent son, but for all my children, their spouses, their children, and their children’s children into eternity.
And eternity!……there’s that reminder that Advent is not just about celebrating the past Birth. It’s about looking forward. This pregnant life we live is not terminal. It’s not going to end. Eternity is coming, the First-Born Jesus will return, coming in a cloud with power and great glory (Luke 25: 27). Our redemption accomplished, we are always on the watch, and pray … able to escape the tribulations that are imminent, and … able to stand before the Son of Man (Luke 21: 35). Whatever difficulties during Advent 2018, certain of His coming glory, we can also be certain (in prayer and sacraments), the good news angels heralded on that first Christmas still applies today: Glory to God in the highest, and on earth, peace to men of good will. Be of Good Will, my sisters, God is on His way to us!
About the author:
Dr. Carol Younger – A Senior Fellow for the St. Paul Center for Biblical Theology, Advisory Board Member for the Great Adventure Bible Studies, author of Listening and Study Guides for biblical and theological presentations through St. Joseph Communications, author of the Retreat Companion for 33 Days to Morning Glory through Marian Press. An accomplished leader in public and private education and a popular adjunct professor at an evangelical Christian university in Southern California. Active in many parish ministries, including RCIA and Catechetical training.