No, I am NOT pregnant. Rest easy. I have been reflecting on the fact that my first and third pregnancies spanned across the Christmas season, which led me to some treasured moments. I know that some of my former students and other friends are pregnant right now. I'm thinking of them, too, this season.
Advent made quite an impression on me during my first pregnancy. By that point, I was feeling quite well and could enjoy all the preparations. To my surprise, Mary increasingly became the focus of my Advent reflections. I think she really gets lost in all the hype about Christmas anyway, and I received so much grace and encouragement in my own journey to childbirth from reflecting on Mary's journey from the Annunciation to the Nativity. Reading and re-reading the Gospel stories about the Nativity gave me more insight into Mary's experiences than I could ever have imagined. Carrying my own first child made me feel like a true companion to Mary as she carried Jesus. I hadn't anticipated this at all.
My first Christmas as an expectant mother forever changed the way I experienced Advent. Now I understood the waiting, the anticipation, the longing. I tried to emulate Mary's calm, Mary's quiet joy, Mary's faith. I celebrated the Nativity with extra joy that year, I think.
My second Christmas pregnancy followed the loss of our second child two years before. I was near to term by Christmas, so Advent mimicked Mary's journey to Bethlehem even more closely. You may imagine how anxious we all were that this child would be born live and healthy. I clung to Mary during those weeks. And our little family rejoiced on the Twelfth Day of Christmas when our first son arrived, hale and hearty. His birthday provides us with a welcome excuse to keep celebrating Christmas until Twelfth Night.
Obviously being pregnant at Christmas can't happen to all of us. At least not in the sense that we will give birth to a child. But I think that Advent does give each of us the opportunity to prepare for the coming of something new in our own lives. Is there a new direction we want to follow in our life, one that brings fulfillment and joy? Is there something creative within us that we long to make present in the world? Is there some love that we want to share with those who have no love? Is there a way we want to engage with life that makes the angels sing? I believe this can be true for each of us. Mary taught me this long ago. I am preparing for yet another opportunity for grace this Advent and asking for her help along the way. I pray that each of you may find what you are seeking and that Christmas joy will find you.