He is coming.
My baby boy is going to be born next month.
I’m not sure when the realization first hit me. Advent is, after all, a waiting for the birth of a baby boy, a first-born son. And that’s exactly what my wife and I are doing. What a gift to be able to do in our married life what we are being asked to do in our spiritual life.
As I get older and pass through the various trials and joys of being a teacher, husband, and father, I become more aware of the wisdom of the Church. The liturgical calendar mirrors the rhythms and oscillations of life, so that as we pass from one year to the next the mysteries of Christ and His Church can become new again.
Advent as an expecting father is wholly different than it ever was before.
For every step we take to get the house ready for our son, we take another to be ready for the birth of Jesus. We buy furniture for the room, then hang lights on the roof. We pick out pictures to put on his walls and arrange the nativity scene carefully. We fill drawers with clothes and hang stockings on the mantle.
What I’ve realized this year is that all the decorations and lights and cards aren’t just about being festive. It’s the natural way to prepare for the birth of a child. The whole house looks different. The daily routine is different. Everything is a reminder of of who is soon to come.
And if the look of the house keeps one aware, how much more does relationship with the expectant mother?
I have a subscription to Magnificat, and on this month’s cover is a painting of the Virgin Mother pregnant with Jesus.
My wife saw it the other day sitting on our coffee table and asked me, “Is that Mary?”
“Yup,” I said.
“Shoot, I look better than her!” she said, rubbing her pregnant belly as she sized up this rendition of the Madonna. She then came to her senses and clapped her hand over her mouth.
“Am I allowed to say that?” she asked.
Of course she is. This is the ever-appalling fact of Christianity: it’s the religion of flesh. This is the revolutionary nature of the Incarnation.
God is not simply a silent spirit or ancient myth or pillar of smoke: He is a man.
It seems almost profane to speak of it. It made my wife uncomfortable to think that Mary might not have looked perfect while pregnant. But undoubtedly, she didn’t! Pregnancy is messy. It’s complicated. It’s human.
And so is Jesus. He is human. He lived in a womb. He made His mother’s belly grow. He made her wake up in the middle of the night to go tinkle. She felt His feet press into her ribs and His head push against her abs.
This fact alone is enough to make me fall down and weep at the feet of Mary. To have such intimacy with the Christ-child! It is a mystery incomparable in history; until, of course, Christ acts us to participate in it.
To watch my wife go through this same process with our baby boy shows me something of what Mary must have gone through. It reminds me of what I am called to do in Advent.
Jesus doesn’t just want us to get the house ready. He wants to grow in us.
He wants us to allow the seed of His life to be planted by the Holy Spirit smack-dab in the middle of our guts through the Eucharist, to become pregnant with Him, to literally carry his Body inside of ours, and then nurture and protect that life we carry. He wants it to grow until it’s so obvious that complete strangers will comment on it, will joke about it, will even lose all concept of social norms and want to touch it right there in public.
He wants us to wonder at the miracle of this new life squirming and rolling inside us. He wants us to get uncomfortable as it grows, to be stretched and changed physically, emotionally, and spiritually, forever.
How often do women lament after delivery, “My body will never be the same again.”
Jesus cries out to us during Advent, “That is My hope!”
He asks us to bring that life out, crying and messy and unstable and unpredictable, to lug it around with us and feed it, to rock it slowly in the night, to try unsuccessfully to get it to quiet down when in public.
That is Advent. That is Christmas. That is what Mary did. That’s what my wife is doing. That’s what I want.
I want something real. I want the flesh.
I want the life of an infant-God, wriggling and bursting with energy and immediacy, to be in my hands every day.
And if I forget this desire, in His wisdom, God has given me a literal baby boy to remind me.
I can’t wait until he gets here.