Because of our unimaginable year many people made Christmas happen super fast already. The darkness and cold of winter, the pandemic not letting up, the angst of the election, the way different kind of holiday season approaching, I get it. People are desperately in need of cheer, light and color. Christmas is something we already have in our attics and we are mostly at home, so why not? I saw whole neighborhoods filled with Christmas lights up and shining weeks before Thanksgiving this year. I think that is good if it brings you hope and joy.
I’m writing this for all those who might feel a little more like me, needing a slower roll into the season. Most of you know, I feel this way every year. I blame it on my well-intentioned upbringing, an over-the-top holiday mom who loved to decorate, shop, wrap, bake and spoil everyone. We literally used to begin Christmas morning with about forty wrapped gifts in front of each person. You could not see the people or the floor because of the gifts. Unwrapping took us over half a day with about twelve bags of refuse afterward. Then, I had all my years of parenting children, decorating and gifting like my mom did. I solidified the whole thing with thirty years of ministry filled with all that is Advent/Christmas in the church. If I added up all the Christmas season worship services, Cantatas, Children’s Programs, Parties, Open Houses that I’ve sat through or attended, we would all faint. I don’t like math that much so let’s just suffice it to say, somewhere along the way, I overdosed on Christmas and developed a tiny aversion to much of it.
This year, I hosted a safe, but very angsty, outdoor Thanksgiving for our extended family. When it was over and all the fall decorations went back to the attic. I felt more strongly than ever that I needed a pause before Christmas. I needed to tiptoe my way to Christmas with space in my home and my heart.
On top of that, we are waiting for an actual baby to be born in our family. Because of this baby’s December due date, it is my first advent to experience what it is like to really wait for a birth. I’m mindful that this baby’s arrival cannot be rushed. Every day I text my daughter-in-law some version of “how’s it going?” I know even when it is time and she goes to the hospital, we will still be waiting hours and hours and hours for the little one to be born.
Advent is about waiting. Waiting to see something as subtle as starlight in a dark sky. It is about waiting for a pregnancy to unfold and for things to be right, in God’s time, for new life to come.
Renita Weems writes in Showing Mary, that, with the mystery of God’s help, all of us are pregnant right now. Yes, even you! She writes, You are like Mary of Nazareth in the New Testament gospel stories. You are pregnant with possibility….Spiritual gestation. Outgrowing an old self, shedding old skin and becoming a new self. Sacred labor. Holy work. Rebirth.
Dr. Weems continues, Have you ever wondered why God sent the angel Gabriel to Mary months before the baby was born to tell her that the child she was about to conceive would be the Christ child?…God wanted her to have time to prepare….Mary is me, and Mary is you….Whenever you feel like you’re being summoned from some deep and holy place within… know that God is at work….That’s spiritual pregnancy.
I believe the unrest, fear, anxiety and uncertainty of our times is stirring something in most of us that makes for fertile ground. We have learned so much, sacrificed so much, changed so much. Now, in this season, inside each of us a seed of something new is growing. I just know it. I don’t want to miss the pregnancy.
It is okay to wait during this season. It is okay to wait in the darkness even. In fact it is Biblical. It is okay to wait in fear, that’s Biblical too. It is okay to tiptoe your way to Christmas in a simple, slow, quiet way. You don’t have to have lots of decorations or noise. You can do it like pregnancy, slowly and quietly just like the way a child is knit together in her mother’s womb. Advent is all about waiting in the dark. But not just waiting, waiting with hope.
When the time is right and only when the time is right, the starlight will shine, the labor will begin and new life will come.
Right now, I’m waiting with hope in the darkness listening in the silence for only thing. I’m tiptoeing around, straining my ears only to hear a newborn’s cry. That will be enough.
Dr. Cindy Ryan is a pastor, wife, mother of three, breast cancer survivor, Mosa to Keller, Pace and one on the way. Go to http://www.drcindyryanblog.com to read more blogs, see Cindy’s Upcoming Events and to learn more about the Jesus Calling Prayer Call she co-hosts each week.