Today’s post for the series What Are We Waiting for This Advent Season? comes from Julie Clawson who describes herself as a mommy, writer and dreamer. Her most recent book is Everyday Justice: The Global Impact of Our Daily Choices. Julie is also involved in the Emerging Women and Emerging Parents networks. This post was first published on Julie Clawson’s blog on the First Sunday of Advent
I love the traditional Carmelite themes for each week of Advent – waiting, accepting, journeying, and birthing. For season that is all about the anticipation of a birth, using a framework that is rooted in the experience of childbearing connects this season to a side of the divine that is often neglected. Feminine metaphors are well suited, in my opinion, to tell the story of a birth.
Women who’ve given birth know the mess and horrific pain that accompany the joy of welcoming new life into this world. And the waiting for a birth is no less conflicted. Nine months is a long time. Between the bouts of morning sickness, the swollen ankles, and the indigestion there are the long discussions about names and getting the nursery just right. Alongside the vivid nightmares and panic attacks that you are just not ready to be a mom, there are the daydreams about what it will be like to hold your baby. Those few seconds in the ultrasound room with the closed-lipped technician do little to assuage your made-up fears or the gut-level desire to just have the baby out already. Even before you are sick of wearing the same two pregnancy shirts over and over again, you wish that your belly had a little zipper that would allow you just one peak at the little one inside (or at least a short reprieve from having your bladder used as a trampoline). Waiting for something beautiful to be born – for joy to fully enter your life – is hard. The child is already there, the joy is present, but you still long for its arrival.
And so mothers learn to wait.
Waiting for the word to become flesh – for the advent of the Messiah was no less difficult. The dream was in the making, the prophets had cast the vision of hope, but like a pixilated ultrasound image, it left the people wanting. They knew one would come who would turn the world upside-down, who would hear the cries of the oppressed and bring justice to the land. Isaiah had foretold of this coming time yet to be born –
On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
the best of meats and the finest of wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
from all the earth.
The LORD has spoken.
Trust in the LORD forever,
for the LORD, the LORD, is the Rock eternal.
He humbles those who dwell on high,
he lays the lofty city low;
he levels it to the ground
and casts it down to the dust.
Feet trample it down—
the feet of the oppressed,
the footsteps of the poor.
- Isaiah 25: 6-8 & 26: 4-6
They were waiting for the world to change, for a new era to finally be born. Like a mother longing to just hold that baby growing in her womb, they wanted the promise they had held onto for so long to finally come to fruition. A few even realized that this gestation of a dream would reach it’s fulfillment in an actual birth. And so we see prophetess Anna in the Temple approaching this incarnate deity exclaiming words of thanksgiving and giving encouragement to those there who had been longing for the redemption of Israel. This child who Mary had waited a long nine months to finally suckle at her breast, was living proof that the dream was not in vain – that the wait was worth it. The world that the prophets had imagined was finally being born where tears would be wiped away and all would feast on aged wine.
But births are never easy. And upside-down kingdoms have a quirky way of being upside-down. As joy arrived and dwelt among us, we discovered that there is meaning in the waiting. The hope and joy is perpetually gestating and being born in light of the way this one little baby shattered every preconception we ever had about the dream we long for.
And so we wait. And anticipate. And live. And follow. And serve.
The child is here, the joy is present, and still we wait for the birth. The waiting changes us and changes the world.