Congenital heart defect.
Open heart surgery.
Palliative care team.
Fluid displacing heart.
We have to wait and see.
We have to wait.
These were just some of the phrases I heard during my life-changing relationship with Maternal Fetal Medicine, the hospital department where I would regularly receive scans in the second half of my pregnancy, followed by difficult and uncertain news.
Pregnancy and Advent get tangled up for obvious reasons. But it’s worth remembering the risk and uncertainty of both. Advent is not the season of relaxing into forgone conclusions. It is the season of waiting.
Gearing up for Christmas, Incarnation, God-with-us: who doesn’t want to get there faster? We are invited to resist flustering our way through December and coming-to when there’s a hale and hearty baby in the manger. We are invited to sit with the heavy task of waiting.
Advent celebrates hundreds of years of biblical angst and silence. (Sorry, deuterocanonical books.) We’re used to Anna and Simeon’s flash of fulfilment in Luke – what we don’t have is the record of their years and years of difficult waiting. Nor do we have the stories of all the faithful people who didn’t make it to the temple on that wonderful day. But those stories are our stories too.
During Advent we remember again how profound it is to wait with questions, in terror and difficulty and uncertainty. We are a people who are always learning what it means to wait faithfully. Though we do know what’s coming at Christmas. When we wait, we wait in the presence of God who is known to us in Jesus Christ.
Plenty of preachers and preachees have feared for the future of their unborn babies – and in time faced what they’ve had to face. There’s nothing special about my experience. But my memory of those months of utter uncertainty, the challenge of living well while waiting, will inform me behind the scenes of my sermons this Advent.
At all times of the year, heavy hearts perch in our pews, fear and uncertainty shuffle down our isles. And I realise this Advent I have a rich opportunity to look them in the eye and speak the truth they long to hear.
What’s Advent like for you this year? Do you find yourself approaching it differently depending on what’s been going on for you and your community over the year?