One day in December, our new priest led an Advent reflection in the school gym and asked the students, “Who is waiting for the birth of a new brother or sister this Advent?”
Five hands went up.
“Oh my, isn’t this wonderful”, the priest exclaimed, without really identifying each face, “So many of you are waiting for the birth of a baby with Mary.”
Then a voice yelled out, “No Father, those are all Juneau kids with their hands raised.”
We had just moved to a larger house on a small family farm because we discovered I was expecting our ninth child. My oldest had started high school while five others attended a small, Catholic school with 10 grades from junior kindergarten to grade 8.
I must admit, as a woman, I have an advantage over men. Since I was pregnant for two of my children during Advent, I can identify with the pregnant Mary in a deeper way. One Advent baby was born on Christmas Eve and the second, my youngest child, on Jan. 7, the day after Epiphany.
Mary, a Human Mother Yet Mediatrix of All Graces
Imagine Mary gazing into the eyes of God Incarnate and soaking in His love. Why, there is something about even an ordinary baby’s open, trusting gaze that literally draws love from us, never mind looking into the face of the Infant God.
A newborn can see clearly for about 8″, just far enough to focus intently on an adult’s face. It is almost as if the initiative to bond comes from the baby first, especially when I consider their fierce hand grip they clutched fingers and clothing. To ensure mothers nurse, babies are born with a powerful rooting reflex and a cry which literally triggers the let-down reflex for milk, soaking clothes if mothers do not start nursing quickly enough.
Babies do not even have a sense of themselves apart from their mothers for the first year because their whole identities are intricately entwined with mum.
I would think Jesus went through this same stage of development. No wonder Mary is the Mediatrix of All Graces; she soaked in the love of God as she nursed and held newborn Jesus and now simply allows this Divine Love to flow through her to us.
I Can Be a Counterpoint of Light with Mother Mary
I can choose to turn my eyes to the child Jesus in silent expectation, waiting to be filled with hope because it is Advent, the brink of Christmas, a celebration of light, joy and peace on earth. If we are open and humble, the flames of the Advent candles will shine as beacons of hope in the darkness, symbols of the Light of the world who will come on Christmas morning. I can welcome light into my inner darkness.
Yes, Advent is a time for waiting with Mary in the darkness for the birth of the Christ Child.
It is a time to silently listen in expectation.
It is a time to sweep away the clutter in our hearts and souls by simplifying our lives to make room for a re-birth in our own hearts for this child called Jesus. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us:
524 When the Church celebrates the liturgy of Advent each year, she makes present this ancient expectancy of the Messiah, for by sharing in the long preparation for the Savior’s first coming, the faithful renew their ardent desire for his second coming.200 By celebrating the precursor’s birth and martyrdom, the Church unites herself to his desire: “He must increase, but I must decrease.”201
Look to Children
We all secretly long for the dark, empty places within us to be flooded with His light and should look to our children to teach us how to wait for the Christ Child to be born anew in our hearts. They trust and believe the words of both their earthly and heavenly Fathers. Think of a young child, eyes twinkling, barely able to sit still and contain his excitement because he knows that his dad will never give him a stone instead of a loaf of bread. No wonder Jesus tells us,
“I assure you,” He said, “unless you are converted and become like children, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven…” Matthew 18:4
God of power and mercy, open our hearts in welcome. Remove the things that hinder us from receiving Christ with joy, so that we may share his wisdom and become one with him when he comes in glory, for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.