An Advent Prayer on the Eve of a Birth
As I write this, it is 11 days past my daughter’s due date, and I am struggling to find the holiness in waiting.
My wife has been experiencing contractions for weeks. They speed up, intensify, and fade away. This is now the cycle of our lives: hurry up and wait; flare up and peter out. There is nothing linear or predictable about this birth. It could be tonight. It could be next week. It has been promised, and yet it still feels so very far.
Soon and very soon, they say. Yet still, I wait.
It feels very Adventy, this living in the tension between the already and the not yet. It’s funny how the themes of waiting, watching, promise, expectancy, keeping awake and alert feel so much more holy when you aren't actually in them.
Turns out, I would rather light candles in the dark for somebody else than search for the light, myself.
There are very few places in my life where I feel so utterly powerless to make anything happen. I’ve always been an “action person,” a do-er, a planner, an executer. In resumé-speak they call it “solutions-oriented.”
And yet, I did not give this child life, and my body will not be the one to birth her. My job is to hold on to the promise of new life and bear witness to the slow pangs of the birthing process.
Come to think of it, maybe this is not such a distant feeling, after all. The world is bursting with reminders of the things I cannot fix. Syria is in shambles. Paris is reeling. Laquan McDonald was gunned down 16 times while walking away. Fear is mounting. And everywhere I’m confronted with the overwhelming realities of violence, pain, suffering, gun violence, systemic racism, global climate change, and rampant xenophobia.
It’s all too much. It’s all so dark. And the light feels very far.
What is left for me to do but to hold on to God’s promise that new life can be born out of darkness? What option do I have, but to bear witness to the slow, irregular birth pangs of Love Incarnate finding its way into the world again?
So in this agonizing threshold moment, I guess that is my invitation: to watch and wait for the One who bears the light in unbearable times; to sing and pray to the One who is born every day in the places which appear most God-foresaken.
Come, O Come Emmanuel. And while I’m at it, Come, Thou Long Expected Daughter. The world needs you both. Soon and very soon.
A big SALT thank you to Rev. Alexis Fuller-Wright of Old South Church in Farmington for her beautiful words! And, congratulations to Alexis and Liz for welcoming into the world, Eleanor Grace Fuller-Wright, 8 lbs. 11 oz., on November 22nd at 7:30pm (and, Nora: congratulations on picking such great mommies!).