‘The day will come’, says the Lord ‘when I will do for Israel and Judah all the good things I have promised them. In those days and at that time I will raise up a righteous descendant from King David’s line. He will do what is just and right throughout the land. In that day Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this will be its name: ‘The Lord Is Our Righteousness.’ – Jeremiah 33.14-15
When I found myself expecting my first child, I was twenty-seven years old but nothing made me feel more unprepared and like a child myself than knowing what lie ahead. No one stops to learn how to be a mother, to care for another human being and all that entails, until they themselves are preparing to have a child. And nothing makes you feel as utterly inadequate as knowing the responsibility that you now carry.
The two blue lines barely had time to appear on that little white stick before I started reading books about pregnancy, birth, and caring for a baby. I suddenly knew how much preparation was needed. I didn’t only need a crib and a car seat, diapers and a thousand other gadgets and tools to take care of a child. I also needed the knowledge that mothers before me, doctors, and friends had to offer.
That firstborn of mine now stands next to me, hanging the sparkling silver angel that was her first ornament on the seventh Christmas tree of her little life. All the rush and hurry of this season is upon us again. I look into her sweet blue eyes that still see the magic of all the lights and songs. I want to create with her traditions that speak also of the expectation that should come with this season before us.
Advent, the season beginning four Sundays before Christmas, means “to come” in Latin and its essence, to me, is reminiscent of that very expectation that I felt as a mother-to-be.
Shouldn’t it be so? Mary found herself still a child, unprepared and unexpecting when she carried both a great weight and the very One who frees us from every burden.
I didn’t celebrate Advent as a child, nor do we in my contemporary evangelical church. I experienced my first Advent in college, in a time when my life when I wasn’t sure anymore about God’s promises and I needed to hear a new word from Him. The hushed tones, the candles lit, the liturgy that spoke of hope and a coming joy – they spoke a fresh life into my faith.
I have lit candles every December since and never was more aware of the beauty of this season than when I found my own child on the way.
Only three months pregnant that first Christmas, I kept imagining the evidence of a child showing in my little tummy but none had begun to appear. I had started preparing to become a mother but her tiny body was barely formed and there were still many months ahead.
This season speaks of that same kind of waiting. The world was groaning under the weight of evil, of pain and the need of someone to carry the burden. The promise of a Savior was made to the people of God in the prophecies of Jeremiah.
A day was coming when justice would be born. Righteousness would no longer be this fleeting hope, always just out of reach. The Lord himself would be righteousness in the flesh.
For so many years the people of God clung to that promise and many despaired to believe it in all the waiting.
As we quiet our hearts this Advent, we become expecters as well. Ones who expect. Hope. Believe. Prepare.
This week, with the first two candles lit, we ask God to prepare our hearts for the hope He brings. Like a mother preparing for the coming of the promise inside her, we stop to linger on the thoughts of what is to come.
Show me the right path, O Lord; point out the road for me to follow. Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you. – Psalm 25.4-5