Advent came alive for me two years ago.
In the span of one season, one calendar month, my world was transformed from infertility to fertility.
The first Sunday of Advent had brought with it deep breaths and a resolution to Just Forget How Awful Advent Felt Last Year And Make It Through Mass Today Without Crying. The second Sunday slumped forward into a familiar place of pessimism: It Is Never Going To Happen For Us And I Wish I Could Stop Wanting It To Happen.
There was this miraculous Wednesday in the middle of a cold December week. That brought with it one faint pink line – the first that dared seem real and not mere hope. And with it (and the second, and third tests that followed, just to be sure) came amazement.
What seemed so easy and natural – and often unwanted – for so many women was for us the culmination of months and months and months of charts, drugs, hormones, doctors and tests. To say nothing of prayer, tears, anger and more prayer. Frustrated, fitful prayer. We had to work at this, and it was painful, all-consuming work at times.
But then the sorrow was transformed. The tears turned into dancing.
My astonishment was palpable. I remember sitting at church during the third week of Advent, giddy from the Knowledge and barely off Cloud Nine. I realized that I would no longer have to grit my teeth through another Christmas chorus of “For unto us a child is born!” Instead, I was entering into expectancy just as the Church sang its praises – as the symbol of our openness and readiness towards the in-breaking of God in our lives.
I can mark my journey that Advent through Scripture. I went from wallowing in the psalmist’s pit of despair to marveling at an angel’s startling announcement of conception. Could it really be?
The season’s symbols and stories shone in a new light. The tale of long-barren Elizabeth and Zechariah was no longer dry history. The leaping and blessing of John and Jesus in the womb no longer echoed like well-worn lines of rote prayer. The fear, surprise, and delight of these men and women was real and enfleshed. Their stories were our own.
This Advent I am profoundly grateful, from the depths of my core where that still-surprising and long-awaited life sprung, for the life of S. As we soon celebrate the anniversary of The Day We Found Out, I give thanks as well for living Advent: leaning into the unknowing and discovering God’s abundant goodness that is waiting therein.
Mystery, not magic; hoping, not having – these are the marks of the season. Of the graces to be dug from the thorny brambles of barrenness, spiritual renewal is thankfully a fruitful gift. But for me, the unexpected seasonal rebirth proved to be just as surprising: a welcome Advent guest.