On that day the announcement to Jerusalem will be,
“Cheer up, Zion! Don’t be afraid!
For the Lord your God is living among you.
He is a mighty savior.
He will take delight in you with gladness.
With his love, he will calm all your fears.
He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”
The waiting for my first child seemed to stretch on forever as it was a week past my due date before labor pains began. After laboring all day, I sat in the hospital expecting to be told she would come soon only to be told I needed to wait and walk some more. Each step felt like it made the pain start anew and the end felt nowhere in sight. Even two hours into pushing, my little diva still took her precious time as we found out she was face up, having a hard time coming into the world.
Struggle and joy are never so intertwined as in those moments of labor, when you speak those words and mean them – “I can’t do this anymore!” You truly feel like there is not another ounce of strength in you, even though you know the reward is near.
I cried those words and wanted to give up, even after nine months of waiting. Even after hours of labor and pushing. One more anguished push and I couldn’t even understand what was happening when this squirming little body was placed on top of mine. I didn’t even realize she had arrived until my mouth was gaping open, tears streaming down my face as I held her to my body. Outside my body. In my arms. How did this happen?
There would be time for celebrating, for announcements and laughter, for photos. Oh, so many photos.
But in those moments, there was nothing but me and her. All of my waiting and working had finally come to an end, even after I had stopped believing it was possible. There were only those dark eyes looking into mine, looking like mine. Nothing else mattered. My dream was living and breathing, in my arms.
I have always read the Old Testament prophecies about Christ from the perspective of one who knows they have been fulfilled, like the mother who already holds her newborn. I haven’t really felt the waiting in the words, the pain and struggle the people of God must have felt as they waited for the One to come who would change their lives.
In the past few years, the pain of the world has been closing in around my heart. Maybe it is being a mother, seeing my children’s innocence and wanting a world free of fear for them. Perhaps it is just aging and seeing more horrors stack up through the years of life on this earth. Maybe it is because of the places I have visited and lived, the age old struggle in the heart of the world that has become more real to me as places I love flash across the news and people I hold dear live in the middle of war zones.
I have found myself reading the verses about the coming Messiah during Advent this year with a different heart. Even as a mother telling my children the beautiful Christmas story, how He came to live among us, I find my heart gravitating towards a different part of the story.
I find myself realizing that Advent is even more for me about the fact that we are still waiting, the knowledge that the labor pains are not yet over. The world is still groaning under the weight of so much pain, aching for release. Like the people of Israel waited for a Messiah, we all wait for a Resurrected Lord.
On that day…those words bring such promise. Certainty. There is coming a day when He will live among us again. Just as He came that first Christmas long ago, Christ will live among us in the flesh.
It’s that day my heart is longing for this Christmas. As I tell my children about the baby who came, I am telling them to look past the stable. This isn’t a story that happened long ago and is over. Certainly we celebrate His arrival. But don’t forget one thing – to look up.
Keep expecting Him. Keep looking for Him. In times of joyous preparation and in those painful struggling alike, hold to the knowledge that you will hold the promise in your arms. And He will hold you.
Lord, you are the Light of our world. O come, O come, Emmanuel. O gracious God of promise, we prepare to worship together as we await the fulfillment of your wondrous plan. Help us to grow as we hear your Word and live in your love.
– The Essential Advent and Christmas Handbook