Waiting in joyful hope!

A chalk drawing by
Sr. Marie Paul O' Brien, pddm (Dublin)
The birth of Jesus Christ in that stable in Bethlehem is where all my questions begin to be answered”. (Cardinal Basil Hume)

Part of me understands these words from the late Archbishop of Westminster for it was during Advent about 9 years ago that I only began to understand the mystery of life, of death, of birth, of motherhood, the real meaning of Advent and Christmas and the preparation for the birth of the Infant King.

“The people in darkness have seen a great light” (Is 9:2). That previous summer, our journey as a family was plunged into darkness with the sudden death of our father at the age of 47. Two days afterwards, my sister announced that she was expecting her first child. God, through his mysterious ways, had already begun to comfort us and assure us that life would go on. A few months afterwards, I recall how on the first Sunday of Advent, my sister told us that she had already named the baby growing within her: Joshua, or ‘Jesus saves’ in Hebrew. A co-incidence, I think not…I like to see it as a God-incidence, God’s delicate reminder that this child who would join our family was a sign of hope that life will and must always overcome death, that there will always be a light to break through our darkness. In this little baby in my sister’s womb, my first nephew, I suddenly saw that it is not just into the ‘mess’ of the stable of Bethlehem but into my ‘mess’ that Jesus enters the world. For too long, instead of entering into the ‘rejoice’ of Christmas, part of me longed for the sorrow of Lent that would justify the feelings of sadness, grief and loneliness as I grieved for my Dad. How could I be faithful to that memory of love and still deal with this sorrow in this season of "Rejoice!"?? I pondered the name Joshua; I pondered the name Emmanuel, and was greatly consoled: Jesus is with us, God is with us. Life will go on!

The liturgical time of Advent only lasts 4 weeks, yet its dynamism, from generation to generation animates those who walk towards the fulfilment of God’s promise that life will continue. The Promise is Love and the Promise was Life and the name of the Promise is Jesus! Jesus who comes into the world as a newborn child embodies both power and vulnerability. “Baby Jesus” is both Christ and Child, both powerful and vulnerable. Deep down, it makes sense, for to “to love at all is to be vulnerable”, as C.S. Lewis writes.

I know I will never have children of my own, and yet, each Advent, I cultivate the life growing deep within my heart, I ponder the miracle of motherhood, of bringing life into the world, of waiting. For me, Advent is the season where God waits for the love of his children. He waits, silently, patiently for the moment of grace until the chronos of life (our time) becomes impregnated with his kairos (God’s time), the Word becomes flesh! Advent is the season where the voice of the prophets cries out with renewed energy …the prophets are in our midst, their voices echoing through the shallowness of our society, of our Church, of our lives. We often try to muffle their voices especially when their message forces us out of the cocoon of our spiritual and material comfort zones. At this time of the year, whilst nature slides silently into sleep, the liturgy, with ever-growing urgency, calls us to be awake, to keep watch, to be ready! Today, more than ever, as Christians we need to assume our prophetic role which flows from our baptism and be the voice which reminds that the world that the paradox of God’s love can be seen in an Infant child, his way of saying that the world must go on!