Advent 4

December 23, 2018


Throughout the Advent season, I have been struck by the choice of people God has used to tell God’s own story. I am always amazed, specifically by Mary, whose openness for blessing reminds us how God keeps his promises throughout the generations. While more than a couple thousand years separate us, I found myself reflecting on the humanness of what it means to bring a child into the world with God’s steadfast love and grace.

I remember being pregnant for the first time. In the very early stages I thought I just had really bad gas. I felt bubbles throughout my digestive system and my insides felt like something had stirred them in a way that was incredibly uncomfortable. I clearly remember lying on the floor of my parents bathroom not wanting to go very far for fear that I would get sick. Everything felt different about my body and mind and in the days and weeks to come, I found myself sobbing about little stuff, forgetting things, and exhausted in ways I had never thought possible. At the time, I had heard of a book called “What to Expect When You are Expecting” and figured that it might help me, so I went out and bought it.   Having no idea what was happening to my body and brain, the book was full of lots of interesting facts which explained the entire nine months of what I could expect during my pregnancy. I was relieved to know in the beginning it wasn’t just gas bubbles, but an actual baby growing, along with my hormones which were going totally wacko.

From the moment we found out I was pregnant, Joel and I found ourselves in uncharted territory, anticipating and wondering what this new little one would be like. Navigating what life would be like over the next nine months and beyond was really, really scary. My pregnancy went well and like a lot of first-time moms, I liked to have things planned out. It was my sense of control, I think. I believed my life would somehow become really out of control when our new little person arrived, so I wanted to make sure that the way they entered and came into the world would be exactly what I thought it should be.

I did all my research and planned EVERY. SINGLE. DETAIL. I knew the kind of birth I wanted to have and expected things to go exactly the way I had planned it. I think I actually wrote my own book and secretly titled it, “What to Expect When Emily Expects Everything to Turn Out Perfectly”. The thing is, on March 12th 2004, NOTHING happened the way I expected it too. It wasn’t the perfect birth I thought it would be. I ended up having an emergency c-section and not only that, but I was expecting and hoping for a girl (secretly) but it was a boy. I grew up with sisters. I knew girls. I had NO idea what I would do with a boy.

After I was all sewn up and brought back to my room, the nurse put this little boy in my arms. He looked up at me with great big blue eyes, all swaddled and looking like a small burrito, as if to say, “Here I am. I can see right through you mom.” I looked back at him and thought, “Who are you? I really hope he doesn’t think I’m an expert in this mom thing, ‘cause I’m mostly terrified at the moment and have no idea what I’m doing.” Thank goodness Joel was there. He took this little swaddled burrito boy from me, sat down, put him in his lap, rocked back and forth and read a book until they were both asleep. I sat there lying in my hospital bed in wonder, awe, and love, and mostly still terrified at the fact that we were now three.

Nothing about having a child or giving birth or life afterwards has gone as I expected. It has been better, worse, harder, and easier than I ever imagined.  Having a child and watching them grow often leaves me feeling out of control most days and navigating the attachment journey of loving and letting go and loving and letting go is what I am constantly doing. This fourteen year old boy, now eats three burritos at a time, is as tall as I am and tells me how annoying I am on a weekly basis and won’t allow me to walk or stand anywhere near him out in public. I still look at him often and say, “Who are you?” And he looks back at me with those piercing blue eyes and reminds me this is a question we all often ask of ourselves. He recently answered with, “I’m still trying to figure that one out mom. Who are you?”

From Luke 1:39-45, “In those days Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb. And why has this happened to me that the mother of my Lord comes to me? For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.”

Each year, when I come upon the season of Advent and ponder what it must have been like for Mary, I’ve now decided that she did not have a book titled “What to Expect When You are Expecting the Messiah”. God’s chosen people had been waiting for longer than nine months, but I believe they did not expect his Son to show up the way he did. God broke into the lives of the unexpected and used people we could never imagined. A young woman. A VERY young woman, who upon meeting her cousin Elizabeth, who is very old and also very pregnant, reminds her of how blessed she is that she believes in the fulfillment of what the Lord has promised.

Mary is pregnant with not only the baby, but with belief that God will remain faithful in his promises. She doesn’t know what to expect, so she believes and trusts wholeheartedly. She is a pregnant virgin and scared to her very core, and she has nothing else to go on, so she believes. Mary is nobody important and has hardly any social standing, but God sees her as being important and chooses her, and so she believes. God chose the unexpected to expect. From the moment she finds out she is pregnant, her life is changed forever.  God remains faithful as God blesses her with people who protect, love, support, and walk with her so she will not doubt that the one she is carrying is essential for the world. She simply believes and goes forward knowing that God goes ahead of her.

When the baby Jesus was born, my guess is Mary looked deep into that face and wondered, “Who are you, my child, who are you?” Mary too, had to navigate the road of loving and letting go as that baby would show her who he was throughout his life. He was God dwelling among us, living as Emmanuel and walked a path to the cross, fulfilling God’s promise of love and grace for the world.

Many of us often wonder and ask the question, “Who am I?” , but I believe God sees and knows exactly who we are because God created us. I also believe the reason God came was to change the question to; “Whose am I?”  That is the whole point of the baby, right? Because God came as Emmanuel, we belong to him. He came for each one of us, so to make us a part of God’s family.  We are God’s beloved children, forever. And that makes us blessed. Blessed to know that as a church, we are pregnant (not gassy J ) with Jesus’ love, forgiveness, peace, and grace for the world.

There is a new book out and it is called, “What to Expect When We Know Whose We Are” and there are three key points to remember:

  • We are all chosen by God, just like Mary. We are all important in the eyes of God because God created and loves us more than we could ever imagine.
  • God will bless our work and remain faithful to us every single day. God’s work is done out there, way beyond the walls of the church, in the daily ins and outs of life.
  • It is our task and job to remind others whose they are. The world aches to belong and sharing the Christ Child with them opens that door.

May our coming days be filled with the expectant wonder of what the Christ Child will do in our midst. Amen.


Bible References

  • Micah 5:2 - 5
  • Luke 1:46 - 55



Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.