“After this time his wife Elizabeth conceived, and she went into seclusion for five months, saying, ‘So has the Lord done for me at a time when He has seen fit to take away my disgrace before others” – Luke 1:5
A couple of years ago, I attended an Advent Reflection evening and the leader, our own Xaverian Associate, Chuck Belzner, likened the Advent season to pregnancy. This was not simply because we celebrate Jesus’ birth at Christmas, but because the season itself is filled with the kind of anticipation, preparation, and ‘expectancy’ you experience when you are ‘expecting’!
Advent is a time of waiting and preparing to make room in our hearts for the Christ Child who promises peace, joy, and healing to a broken world. This is not unlike the actual physical preparations that couples and families go through to welcome a child; readying the room in their home that is already filled in their hearts!
But like the women in today’s readings, this time of year, so beautifully focused on family and children, can be experienced as a painful reminder of the emptiness of infertility. There is an agonizing, all-consuming rhythm to the literal cycle of hope and disappointment that couples experience when they are unable to conceive a child. Time, the very thing we try to treasure during Advent, can feel like an enemy; and the loneliness amid joy is often devastating.
I was struck by the final lines in Luke’s Gospel. Upon receiving the miraculous news that after a lifetime of baroness, with no realistic hope that she would ever be a mother, Elizabeth chooses seclusion. Why? Because she sees her infertility as a disgrace. Some might argue that such a stigma is no longer attached to childlessness. One need only walk with someone who has experienced it to hear the perception of failure and deep sadness that women share.
But embedded in the readings and in this season is the call to trust that God’s time is not always our time. And perhaps more importantly, to remind all of us to be watchful for those who feel lost and alone during this time of hope and joy.
God, in Your tender compassion, the dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.
To view the full Advent 2022 booklet in English, click here.
For Spanish, click here.
For French, click here.