Nineteen years ago, my husband and I were waiting for our first child. We didn’t know if we were getting a boy or a girl, but we knew he or she would arrive sometime around December 22nd. Many people thought we should find out if we were getting a boy or a girl; knowing in advance made it easier to pick baby clothes and it narrowed down the list of possible names. But we didn’t want to know before our baby arrived. For reasons I couldn’t name and a few reasons I could, it felt right to let our child enter the world and our lives as a surprise. On December 25th, 1997, a baby boy came into our family.
Today, I have a better idea why I didn’t want to know the boy-or-girl answer in advance: I didn’t want to know or do something that would allow me to think that I could contain or manipulate something so mysterious and powerful as new life. I might have easily mistaken foreknowledge and proactive planning for control, treating a new child like my own possession. While many expectant parents I’ve known wouldn’t have made such a mistake, I believe I might have.
Advent is the same for me. I am waiting for a child, a gift of God that is not mine to name or squeeze into my personal schedule. It’s my month long preparation for the Mystery that is not my creation. I can’t lay claim to this child, but my life is this child’s to claim. If I don’t take my time, I may just fool myself into thinking I know all about God-With-Us.
Every day during Advent, you will find scripture readings and the prayerful offerings of many writers and artists. I hope you will wait with us, seeking the Mystery that claims us all.