Advent has become a deeply important season for my spirituality. I was aware of it for a long time–especially coming from Germany where Advent is celebrated by nearly everyone. The depth of this season, however, was mostly lost on me. I wouldn’t have called my awareness of Advent a “spiritual” awareness as much as an awareness of the 24 pieces of chocolate I would get from my $5 Advent Calendar from the Grocery store.
This year I am finding it profound that my wife, Nicole is pregnant during Advent. Sometimes I lose sight of the humanity of the characters of Advent. Mary, Elizabeth, Joseph, Zechariah, Jesus, John. These–according to my beliefs–are real people. They are real people who experienced real emotions around these events. That’s new this year–my understanding that acknowledging the deep spirituality of Advent also requires me to acknowledge the humanity of those involved in the story.
The Shadow of Advent
I know I am jumping a bit ahead of the Advent story, but it is also not lost on me that Mary and possibly Elizabeth (She may have already been dead at this point) experienced every Mother’s worst nightmare–the loss of her child.
I am in a season of meditation focused on the Mother’s journey through Advent and more specifically the Mourning Mother’s journey. In the wake of the many stories burning up our newsfeed and making the front page, I can’t turn my gaze away from the Mourning Mother.
I am specifically thinking, lamenting, and praying for:
My wife, Nicole, who experienced the early miscarriage of our triplets, gave birth to our daughter Emery, and is pregnant again.
Many friends of mine who have also experienced miscarriage.
The Mother who courageously gave birth to her child who she knew was no longer alive.
A friend and former Joshua Station resident who lost her son in a traumatic accident.
Mayra Lazos-Guerrero, who was probably terrified for her child’s life after a Denver police officer tripped her causing her to fall on her stomach.
Lesley McSpadden, who lost her son, Mike Brown, in Ferguson in August.
Samaria Rice, who lost her son Tamir when he was shot and killed in Cleveland.
Sybrina Fulton, who lost her son Trayvon Martin, in February of 2012 when he was shot and killed.
All Mothers have a connection to the Advent story that I will never have. They have felt the movements of their children long before anyone else would have the privilege of holding them. They all felt simultaneous hope and anxiety when they carried their children within the safety of their womb. They all felt fear, and many of them have experienced the deep pain of loss.
As I journey through this Advent season, I am praying that God helps me see the deep humanity within this story. The humanity of a young woman who was scared to death about what would happen to her life through this transformative experience. The humanity of a whaling Mother who had to let go of her son far too soon. The humanity of it all reminds me of the deep spirituality that we are all invited into. The humanity of it all reminds me that Mothers have a particularly miraculous connection to the core of this story. It is because of this connection that I am trying to practice the discipline of listening–listening to the deeply spiritual stories of the many Mothers around me, especially those who have experienced the loss of a child.