Sunday, November 28, 2010

Mama Bean thinks about Advent differently now

Now that I'm a mom, I mean.

It's only been a few years that I've even paid attention to Advent as a season, versus solely focusing on Christmas day. As a kid, the only connection I made between the little waxy chocolates I got to eat one at a measly, waxy time and the magic number of 24 was that, if I started eating on December 1st, I got one per waxy waxy day until Christmas day, when there were much better things to eat. (Srsly, those supermarket Advent calendars have the worstest chocolate ever. I know, what a "first world" thing to complain about, but like, save your $3 or whatever and give it to the third world rather than subject people you care about to eating those things.)

My awareness of Advent coincides with my awareness of Lent and all things having to do with the Liturgical Year of Awesomeness. I love that every Sunday can be included in a broader celebration, instead of coasting with boredom from Big Holiday to Big Holiday. I love expanding the joy of Christmas from one day to several weeks, each with their own particular spiritual focus on what Christmas means, the people involved, its place in history, etc.

Plus, there are candles!

Last year, I was just barely coming out of the Delirious Early Days and juggling the new demands of Major-Family-Holiday-with-a-Sought-After-and-Coveted-Grandbaby, so I wasn't thinking much about anything, let alone Advent. I'm surprised people got gifts last year. But this year I'm much more able to engage and celebrate properly. And I found my Advent thoughts this week centering on Mary, because I feel like I can look through her eyes with a little more understanding, now that I've welcomed a baby the way she welcomed a baby. (Well, not exactly the way she did - no angels, no manger, etc. But you get my drift...)

The whole thing about Advent is anticipation, right, this growing expectation of this really Universe-changing event that's about to take place. And the first week is traditionally focused on Hope, the hope for a saviour that permeated culture back then in this very intense, taste-it-on-your-tongue kind of way. But Mary wasn't just pregnant for the four weeks of Advent; she'd been pregnant since early Spring. She'd been anticipating and expecting and hoping while simultaneously knowing that this child, her child is the very Messiah everyone's so desperate for, for almost ten months. She just hoped and hoped and hoped all the way to Bethlehem.

I have anticipated and expected and hoped things for my child through forty weeks. I am doing it all over again for the little Sprout in my tummy now. I can imagine, in a small way, the internal light of hope Mary carried in her mind, and heart, and soul, and tummy. It's just this totally different, totally unearthly, yet fully earthly and normal and natural kind of love. That's the love of Christmas! I mean, times a million, considering the end result of Easter. But the love of Christmas starts with the love of a mother. And I get that now, because I am a mother. And it really changes the way I approach Advent, and the way I'll consider the next twenty-some days. I cannot imagine carrying a child knowing he's destined to die. Where is the hope in that? And yet. Carrying a child knowing he's destined to save the world...

The somewhat abstract concept of Jesus arriving in the world as a baby now has very concrete, very real memories and touchstones for me to hold in my hands, and my thoughts, and my heart. I know how small he was, how light and fragile. I know what it was like to nurse him (albeit, aided by a glider, nursing pillow, pump, nipple shield, fridges and freezers and bottles - but she probably had receiving blankets, right? So it was totally the same thing...) I know that his poop smelled just like everyone else's! And I will add to this knowing, in the coming years, imagining Jesus learning to walk, saying his first words, tying his own shoes (sandals,whatever!) Learning to read. Discovering the world. Discovering God.

Ultimately, I think I simply feel closer to the story, I feel like I've moved up from the back seats into the real deal, with dust on my feet from the straw in the manger. I know what a baby is, now. And so I can know what Jesus was, and what that means, in the Big Picture, about what he did for me. From where I sit now, that Advent candle looks a little brighter, a little warmer; it looks and feels like Love.

Merry Advent, everyone...


  1. It's true, about identifying with Mary. Unexpectedly true, during my first Christmas-as-mother.

    Also, Advent is so pretty and nice... I was just reading some of Leila's posts on it and thinking about having more wreaths and candles around here. (Though I disagree with her admonition about advent presents -- not on a theological level, but because advent presents are so much fun!)

  2. I think advent presents are awesome, and a good alternative to the evil chocolates of wax. I would love to have an advent wreath at home, but probably not this year. Leila's wreath this year looks lovely.