It was a wonderful surprise to receive the following Advent reflection from my daughter Gabrielle Klein Hicks, who is a homeschooling mother of three young boys and is expecting her first baby girl next April. Her insights are truly beautiful and they capture the mystery of Advent longing and its connection to the virtue of HOPE. Enjoy! God bless, Judy Klein
Advent is my favorite season of the Liturgical year. The year begins anew as we quietly prepare for and anticipate the birth of a child. But not just any child… Emmanuel. God with us. In a total act of love and mercy (and with Mary’s “yes”), the Word is made flesh and dwells among us. God the Son is revealed so that He may ransom His people held captive by sin and darkness. The hope of salvation is born. The Light of the World has come. What a thing to rejoice!
I can remember as a child feeling a painful longing come over me in mass during Advent and then ecstatic hope during the Christmas celebration. I remember being moved to tears every year, not knowing quite why, since my relationship with God was immature and distant, at best. What was I longing for? Why was I so hopeful?
Now as a mother, I begin to understand Advent and Christmas in a new way each season. A priest said to me during my first pregnancy, “Well if you don’t get Advent now, you never will!” regarding the fact that my baby boy was born on Christmas Eve.
But I didn’t get it then. These days, time and experience (and two more children with a fourth on the way!) have revealed to me what I felt then but did not yet understand. This year, as I reflect on the gift of a child and the hope of new life, I see how much God has taught me through my children…
Almost everyday there is a moment where I gaze upon each child’s face. Whether I am putting them to sleep or checking on them in the backyard, I just watch them. Their innocence and lack of self consciousness never ceases to amaze me. Their hearts have faith in their own goodness as well as the goodness of others. They love so freely.
This is particularly evident when they see themselves in the mirror. Every time they see their reflection, they greet themselves with the most genuine smile. They are pleased with what they see, because they see what God sees… A person beautifully and wonderfully made by their Creator. And His creation is good. They don’t see frizzy hair or an ugly nose.
And I often wonder, when does this joy and peace in the way God created us get lost? When do we become not only self conscious but honed in on every flaw?
Watching my children has taught me to rediscover the truth about myself. Something I lost during so many years of exile in sin and darkness. I have relearned what I once knew as a child, which is that God is good and God is love. God made me in His image and likeness, therefore I am good and made for love. God loves me. I am good.
I can see self consciousness developing in my almost six-year-old. It hurts to watch. I want him to hold on to the truth about who he is in God forever. However, in my heart I know that all my children will lose this truth to some degree as sin manifests itself in their lives. They will have their own story of how God reveals Himself to them and sets them free. I am sure it will be a beautiful thing for me to behold, but I wish I could spare them the pain of their sin. I know, of course, I can’t.
Pain is so intimately intertwined with new life, evident in labor and birth. You can’t have one without the other. Plus, Christ came to save them just as He came to save me. I know I would not have learned these lessons without feeling the pain of my own sin and without the life experiences I’ve had so far. So I trust in God and in the stories He’s written for each of their lives.
As I realize all these things, I now understand what I was longing and hoping for in those days as a child…I longed to know God and to be in communion with Him. I longed for the Truth and to be saved from all the lies my sin led me to believe about myself. And the ecstatic hope? Well, that was the chance I saw to come alive again in Christ. A chance to be free like a child once more. An opportunity to see myself as good again and have peace with my flaws, just as my children do now.
Every Advent, we will continue to await this ecstatic hope. I will continue to tell my children that Jesus loves them so much that He came down to this earth to find them and eventually lead them home when It is finished. I will show them in my own clumsy way how to long for God, how to make room in our hearts to receive the King, and how to endure the pain until He reveals Himself. They will know that they have a chance for not only new life, but true life in Christ, and that alone is worth hoping for!
The story of the Incarnation is almost too much to behold. God becomes a man… We will finally be set free! But for now, we will be patient as we wait. We will dive deeper into the mystery of being brought from exile into new life. Hope for you and me and all mankind. Then we will rejoice alongside the heavens and earth when our Savior finally comes!
To Ponder: Do I experience Advent as a time of longing? How do I connect this longing with the virtue of hope?
Copyright 2014, Judy Klein