When a couple receives news that the child they have awaited for what seems like forever is on the way, everything changes. Whether this child is biological or adopted matters little. Whether this child arrives on Day 1 of life or at age three months or four years matters less. Whatever the case, this child’s impending appearance transforms the lives of the parents-to-be in unimaginably unexpected ways. Though the expectant pair continue their work schedules, day-to-day routines and social activities, they engage themselves with an expanded purpose. Suddenly, even seemingly mundane decisions are made with their soon-to-arrive child in mind. External adjustments on the home front such as furniture purchases and bedroom preparations only hint at the internal upheaval which refocuses the parents-to-be for the foreseeable future and well beyond it.
I laugh as I recall the months my husband and I spent preparing for the arrival of our son. We decorated his room and set up his crib with plenty of time to spare. We created needlepoint likenesses of little animals which eventually filled a wall. (Yes, my husband helped with this!) While purchasing linens, diapers and a few tiny toys, I also read the most recent edition of Dr. Spock’s childcare book. We attended birthing classes and consulted with experienced parents we knew. During the months, weeks and days before our son’s arrival, I felt quite confident about my ability to parent the little one who was on his way. After all, I loved him more than anything from the day I discovered I was pregnant. When I finally saw him, I loved him even more. Those early days in the hospital, when the nurses guided our every move, went very well. It was the day they ushered us with babe-in-arms to the exit door of the hospital that reality set in. Suddenly, Mike and I realized we had no idea of how to care for a child twenty-four/seven on our own. Though I knew I could not love the baby in my arms any more than I did, I also wondered what God was thinking when God entrusted that baby to me.
On this Fourth Sunday of Advent, the passage from Luke’s gospel (1:26-38) reveals the upheaval which occurred in Mary’s life when she discovered that her child would soon be on the way. How could a fourteen year old girl prepare for motherhood under any circumstances? Taking on the role of Mother of God seemed out of the question even for the greatest woman among us. Mary was an exemplary daughter, raised in the Jewish Faith by devout parents who dedicated her to the Lord God early on. As was the custom in their community, Mary was betrothed to an older man, Joseph by name. Her family lived in a small town, and Mary likely expected to live out her life there with her intended husband and their children. When Gabriel appeared to announce an alternate plan, the news startled Mary at best. “God’s Son? My Son? How can this possibly be?” Still, this brave teenager listened on and opened herself to the challenges which lay ahead. Like the every parent among us, Mary allowed her life to be changed forever by the child God had given her to love.
In just four days, we will celebrate Christmas. Life for the next ninety-six hours will be more hectic than any of us prefer. Nonetheless, each of us is invited to adjust, refocus and prepare once again. The child who changed everything more then two millennia ago remains among us to do the same today. Like the children whom we parent, this child seeks our attention, our focus and our love. Though our own children grow and leave our homes to make their own way as we did, Jesus of Nazareth never leaves. Though he grew and prospered, died and rose, Jesus remains around us and within us every moment of our lives. Though we continue our work schedules, day-to-day routines and social activities, Jesus asks that we engage in these things with an expanded purpose. Jesus asks that we do whatever we do with him in mind. Like our own children, that cute little babe in the manger makes unimaginably unexpected demands upon us. Like our own children, he rewards us with greater love than seems possible. Like our own children, Jesus changes our lives forever.
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