Is there a more thrilling time of year than Advent? It always seems a little easier to smile during the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. There’s more music in the air, more light in the heart. Growing up as a fairly typical American kid, Christmas was just as much about Rudolph and Charlie Brown as it was about Baby Jesus and the magi. As I reached adulthood, though, it became more important to revisit the Biblical story of the Birth of Christ, as the story wraps me in the warmth and wonder of that silent night.
This Christmas season, I find myself seven months pregnant with my first child. By the time we reach Epiphany, it will have been three years since I lost my own mother, and my heart aches with the questions I am desperate to ask her about her own experience during pregnancy. In my mother’s absence, I decided to turn to the Theotokos, wondering what it must have been like to carry the Son of God, Son of Man. Did she wake up in pain in the middle of the night from leg cramps? Did she also find herself breathless after simply walking down the road? Did she stay up at night counting every baby kick, every shift, every movement of the Miracle of Life inside her? At least Gabriel saved her the worry of coming up with that perfect name: “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:30).
I have felt judged in public when I reach for a can of Coke rather than a bottle of water, opted for that cheeseburger instead of a healthier option. “It’s really not good for the baby,” I can hear strangers judging, even though that sandwich was all I could stomach that day. Imagine the scorn, then, that Mary must have been subjected to as word got out that she was pregnant out of wedlock, the whispers the Theotokos might have heard behind her back.
I realize of course that these details were unlikely to be chronicled in the Gospels, but it feels important to me to remember that Mary is just as human as I am, and was just as pregnant; the duality of the Son of Man requires that He not only bled and died as we do, but also grew in His mother’s womb womb between the nine months of the Annunciation and Christmas.
I am blessed with an adoring husband who has made these several months not only bearable but joyful; we were lucky enough to conceive at a time and place in our lives when we were supported and capable of starting a family. Though Joseph’s dedication to his new son was perhaps not as premeditated as Kevin’s, it continues to be an example to fathers everywhere – an example of faith, fatherhood, and fidelity.
None of these are original thoughts, I realize. But being pregnant during this Christmas season does make me feel more connected to the life of Mary and more cognizant of the reality that Christ was not only fully God but also fully Human. He grew and developed inside His mother, just as my baby girl is doing now. I can only pray that the Holy Spirit and Theotokos nurture and surround me as my little family grows.
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