Aching sides, sharp cramps in my legs, heartburn welling up inside in the middle of the night. Painful tightening around my middle, hard kicks under my ribs, somersaults being performed below my belly button, tiny hiccups echoing each other and jostling my womb, these are the symptoms of waiting. Waiting these last few weeks for the end of the beginning. Waiting to see the one I’ve carried for nine months. Feeling that motherly love fill my soul as I watch tiny knees and elbows graze the inside of my thinly stretched skin. Holding my breath for those first real signs of labor. Waiting. Anticipating. Longing.
Is this how Mary felt in those last days of maternity? Her last month of pregnancy correlates with the four weeks of Advent we celebrate every December. As we light each candle on the wreath, she was inching one week closer to her due date. She was experiencing all the discomforts of her growing baby bump. Being jostled and kicked and stretched from within. Trying to find a comfortable position as she slept at night, taking a break during her daily tasks because of swollen ankles and aching feet. Feeling that unquenchable excitement to hold and see her baby for the first time. The start of labor seemingly so close that she could almost touch it. Waiting for the end of the beginning of her baby’s life.
I continue to be amazed at how she traveled to Bethlehem in her final days of pregnancy. Riding in the comfort of my soft minivan seat for an hour leaves me sore and stiff and she sat on the bony back of a donkey tripping along rocky roads for days. With my first pregnancy, I went camping in a tent on an air mattress at 30 weeks and said I would never do that again — while here she is sleeping outside without any air mattress and maybe not even a pillow at 39 weeks! The sacrifices she made and the sufferings she quietly endured during her pregnant days show amazing perseverance, heroic resolve and unbelievable acceptance of God’s plan.
It seems to me that she would have been calm throughout the journey to Bethlehem, not becoming anxious but peacefully accepting the discomforts of each step, breathing quietly through each jostle and cramp, praying her way through each worrying thought and painful Braxton-Hicks contraction. She felt everything that pregnant women feel, yet she endured it all with so much more grace and patience than most of us do. She submitted her will to receptive surrender, not allowing herself to be panicked about her uncertain circumstances or the chaos of traveling among the crowds.
Can we follow her example? Can we submit our wills to quiet surrender in the midst of the uncertainty and chaos around us? As we light one more Advent candle each week, can we calm our hearts against the storm of unfinished to-do lists, jostling crowds, unsettled souls and anxious thoughts? Holding our breath for that moment of glory and deliverance, waiting, anticipating, and longing for the birth of our Savior. When everything else fades away and the only thing that matters is seeing the face of that brand-new baby for the first time.
Come, O Prince of Peace, Come.
Copyright 2017 Hannah Christensen