You too must be patient. Make your hearts firm, because the coming of the Lord is at hand. – James 5:8
During pregnancy everyone (and their mother) feels the need to offer all kinds of advice, from what to eat to what to name the baby. I politely ignored all the people who criticized my lifelong vegetarianism. Yet, I obsessed over every recommendation for baby gear that was loved or hated. I got lost in the online mommy blogs and ratings games. Well-meaning people offered comments like “enjoy this time while you can” and “sleep now before the baby arrives.” As each of my pregnancies neared the end, I felt sicker and sicker. I didn’t sleep, I could hardly eat, and there was little to “enjoy”. I was counting down the days so at least my sleepless nights would include the company of a new baby. There was not a lot of patient waiting happening.
Around the third trimester of pregnancy, many people have baby showers or getaways to celebrate the new baby but also the changes coming for the couple and the family. For my second pregnancy, my sisters and I got massages and that was exactly the extra care I needed. The third Sunday of Advent feels a lot like the home stretch of my pregnancies. I am caught between the reality of the now and the anticipation of the joy to come. The Church gives us Gaudete Sunday, meaning rejoice, to buoy our spirits and strengthen our joy when the waiting gets tough. This Third Sunday is like the spiritual babymoon we all need to fully open our hearts to receive the miracle of Jesus’ birth.
In these liminal spaces of waiting, some of us struggle to name our shifting identities. A mom or not a mom, a family of 4 or a family of 5? One who works or one who stays home? Perhaps you have felt this way during periods of major transition in your own life. The person I was is already fading away, but my new self is not yet fully formed.
Just like a family welcoming a new addition or facing the loss of a member (to death, divorce or distance), the early Christian community struggled to understand who they were individually and collectively. Tensions arise as the discomfort of settling into newness begins to grate on insecurities. Each Christian is asking “who am I?”. Sometimes the answer we hear in prayer is murky. Pointing out the shortcomings in those around us is easier than waiting for clarity to emerge.
The new beginning that God is nurturing within us takes time and patience, like crops thirsting for rain in order to grow. I do not want to be suspended between the person who lived before and the person who I will become.
Gaudete Sunday is a pregnant pause. Amidst the flurry of tinsel and sprinkles and holiday cheer, it is a moment to ground ourselves in the joy of waiting.
Meditate on the sense of anticipation in Advent.
Read Waiting in Hope by Becky Eldredge
Spend time with the prayer You Keep Us Waiting.
Read more helpful Advent reflections on Christus Ministries or Becky Eldredge’s websites… I contribute to both of these, alongside other talented Ignatian writers.