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angst, anguish & advent – jody kilpatrick

be-it-unto-me

Brain swelling.

Congenital heart defect.

Soft markers.

Open heart surgery.

Palliative care team.

Chromosomal abnormality.

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?

9 Comments

  1. Miriam says:

    Beautiful. Thanks, Jody.

  2. Sam says:

    Once again… you are a wordsmith of epic ability!

  3. Janice Corbett says:

    I’m so grateful I can shuffle my fear and uncertainty down the aisle and perch my heavy heart in a church where you are Jody. Thank you.

  4. Thalia KR says:

    Thank you, Jody, for these beautiful and honest words.

    I, too, never saw Advent the same way after experiencing pregnancy – not least because the idea of travelling to Bethlehem, donkey or not, was not appealing at nine months pregnant!

    I, too, am conscious of the heavy hearts at Christmas. The bigger and better the celebration, the more aware we are of who isn’t seated at the feast table. I am always keen to make space, even on the most festive days, for acknowledging the hard things.

    Your congregation is very lucky to have you.

  5. Hillary says:

    Thank you so much for sharing Jody, that was a really timely read for me in this advent time, waiting well is a daily challenge that I feel all to immature to handle most of the time!!!

  6. Angela says:

    Thank you

  7. Thalia KR says:

    People might also be interested in this thoughtful reflection on the connections between pregnancy, birth, Advent, Christmas and preaching: http://livesayhaiti.blogspot.co.nz/2011/12/incarnation.html

    ‘But we keep it quiet, the mess of the Incarnation, because it’s just not church-y enough and men don’t quite understand and it’s personal, private, there aren’t words for this and it’s a bit too much. It’s too much pain, too much waiting, too much humanity, too much God, too much work, too much joy, too much love and far too messy. With far too little control. And sometimes it does not go the way we thought it was supposed to go and then we are also left with questions, with deep sadness, with longing.’

  8. Stu says:

    What encouraging words for those struggling as we approach Christmas. I have encouraged all in my church to read this post. Thanks Jody.

  9. Lynne says:

    Thank you Jody, this is such a timely message for me this Christmas. I’m not very good at waiting well, and this has brought me hope.

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