Happy New Year to all my Catholic readers! Today is the first day of Advent, the beginning of the new liturgical year. We begin a season of preparation, preparing our hearts and our homes for the birth of a child. The child we wait for is no ordinary child, but He came into the world much in the usual way. He was cradled in the womb of his mother and just as we prepare for his arrival each year, so too must his mother have prepared for his birth over two thousand years ago. My husband and I have spent the past nine months preparing to bring a baby in our lives. As Advent begins, my thoughts turn to how Mary must have prepared for the birth of her son through the nine months of her pregnancy and what we can learn from the Holy Mother’s example.
I have not given much thought to this before, Mary’s pregnancy. The Bible does not give much detail the time between the annunciation and the birth of Christ at Bethlehem. Despite her trust in the Lord, she must have felt some uncertainty early in her pregnancy before Joseph took her into his home as his wife. We know that Mary spent some time with her kinswoman Elizabeth during her pregnancy and I imagine that this time spent together was joyful, as the two women shared in the wonder of becoming a mother for the first time and feeling life form within them.
The selflessness of Mary to assist her pregnant cousin while she herself was pregnant is a reflection I have turned to time and time again during my own pregnancy. Although pregnancy is certainly an exceptional time in a woman’s life and she has additional needs, including needing more rest and more help with certain daily tasks, it is not a time to become self-indulgent. Much of the pregnancy articles and advice I’ve read this past year seemed to encourage women to focus solely on themselves, to demand that their partners, family, and friends cater to their needs and whims during pregnancy, and to treat themselves to the finest luxuries and comforts. The Blessed Mother reminds us that this is misguided, that perhaps one of the best ways to prepare for a child is to care for others. So too can we prepare for the Christ Child this Advent by giving aid to those around us.
This does not mean that we should neglect our own well-being, nor does it mean that we should take on responsibilities that put too much burden upon our shoulders (something I think that happens often during the holiday season). But Advent reminds us to look outside ourselves. When we prepare for the birth of a child, we do not want to be caught unaware without the proper necessities to welcome the child into our home: diapers, blankets, clothing, a place to sleep. So too should be our preparation during Advent as we ready ourselves not only for the birth of Christ, but also for his return. What do we want Him to see when He returns? How should we be conducting our lives in light of our Christian faith?
While secular society starts the holiday season with Black Friday, thus highlighting the materialistic emphasis that Christmas has acquired in recent years, we as Catholics acknowledge Advent, a time of great reflection and spiritual preparation, as the beginning of our yearly journey toward Christmas. May your Advent be filled with light as you prepare your hearts and homes for the coming of Christ!