Earlier this year towards the end of my pregnancy, a friend sent me this meme causing me to laugh wryly:
The last trimester can feel like it lasts forever but I knew it wouldn’t be long until the wait (and the physical discomfort) would be over and I could look at my baby’s face and hold her in my arms.
How did Mary, the girl chosen to be the mother of the God-baby, feel as her time to give birth drew near?
Giving birth to Small Boy just before Christmas gave me a fresh appreciation of Mary’s courage and obedience. In the final months of pregnancy I felt HUGE (this is because I was), struggled to sleep and suffered from dyspepsia (yep – the nausea and vomiting wasn’t just first trimester). I waddled rather than walked and stayed close to home and the hospital. You wouldn’t have found me making a five-day journey sitting on a donkey.
Mary wasn’t the only one waiting for her baby to arrive – this was the moment the Jewish people had been longing for: the arrival of the Messiah, the one who will rescue God’s people.
A friend recently asked me if I had a favourite Christmas carol. ‘Hark the Herald Angels Sing’, I replied immediately.
This is my favourite section:
Hail the heav’n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings
Ris’n with healing in His wings
These lyrics come from the ancient prophecy of Malachi and look forward to the Lord’s coming:
But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture. (Malachi 4:2, New Living Translation)
These words speak to me of emotional healing and freedom. Christmas can be such a difficult time emotionally: we can feel sorrow or regret as we remember absent loved ones and we can get stressed if high expectations aren’t met. Spending time with family can mean we revert to playing the roles we had in childhood. Even in precious seasons, there can be challenges – a friend of a friend has written some great advice about Christmas with a baby. If you think this Christmas is going to be a tough time for you emotionally, then please be kind to yourself and maybe talk things through with someone. (In the UK, the Samaritans can be called for free at any time.)
Malachi is the last book of the Old Testament:
‘It would be four hundred years between Malachi and Matthew. History didn’t stop. Kings and kingdoms came and went. But God’s redemptive plan stayed on schedule. When the time was right, Jesus would bring salvation to both Jews and the Gentiles. God’s kingdom arrived in the person of his Son.‘ (They Spoke from God: A survey of the Old Testament, p. 836)
Advent is a season of waiting. Waiting is so much harder when I don’t know how long I have to wait. If I’m waiting for a bus and I know one is coming in a hour, I am content and productive. But if I’m waiting and I don’t know when (or even if) a bus is coming, the time passes slowly and I’m on edge. Would I have waited differently if I’d known at age 18 that it would only be 12 years until I met Mr Pilgrim?
I love these words from Shane Claiborne about how to wait: ‘And we wait in expectation of the full coming of God’s reign on earth and for the return of Christ, what God will yet do. But this waiting is not a passive waiting. It is an active waiting. As any expectant mother knows, this waiting also involves preparation, exercise, nutrition, care, prayer, work; and birth involves pain, blood, tears, joy, release, community. It is called labor for a reason. Likewise, we are in a world pregnant with hope, and we live in the expectation of the coming of God’s kingdom on earth. As we wait, we also work, cry, pray, ache; we are the midwives of another world.‘
On Christmas Day, we celebrate the birth of the God-baby and ‘Hail the Sun of Righteousness’. The wait is over. If you’re currently waiting for something, then wait with God. His timing is perfect.
Merry Christmas! Have a good one.