I am told by kind readers that it’s been quite awhile since I last wrote. In all honesty, time has stood still in my life. The baby we expected in December was born in October. Her birth was traumatic and she spent some time in the newborn intensive care unit. She’s home now, safe and happy in my arms. It was summer when bedrest began and now it’s Advent. Somewhere along the way, I lost the last trimester of pregnancy and I gained an angelic baby. My house looks more than a bit neglected and I feel like I’m playing catch-up on life. This year, more than ever before, Advent is about the baby — both the one we are holding and the One we await. We know beyond the shadow of a doubt that our God is the God of miracles and we know that the Babe is the greatest Gift of all.
Usually, I spend several months preparing my home before a baby is born. Not this time. This time, six weeks before our baby was due, I hastened to the hospital in the middle of the night and hoped we’d both survive. Usually, the baby clothes are washed and tucked tenderly in drawers; the house is cleaned and the freezer is stocked. This time, my baby’s skin was so tender she didn’t even wear clothes the first few days of her life. Usually, I am busy and active in the weeks before delivery. Usually, my home is ready. This time, I was very still and contemplative. This time, my soul was ready.
Usually, I spend a month or so getting ready for Advent. And then I spend Advent getting ready for Christmas. Usually, there are crafts planned, lessons laid out and activities scheduled. Once Advent begins, there is decorating and gift buying and baking. Not this time. This time, I am working to get my feet solidly on the ground following bedrest and emergency surgery. Mostly, though, I am caring for a delicate baby and reveling in the miracle of her. This time, the contemplation continues. The prayer routines of pregnancy are all the more important as I seek to regain “real life.”
I learned that as much as all those physical things bring comfort and joy to our days and as much as I dearly love to do all the wonderful things that come with this time of year, I truly prepare for the baby when I spend large amounts of time in prayer.
A couple of days before Sarah Anne was born, I commented to my priest that it is much more difficult to sin when one is on bedrest. He raised his eyebrows. No, I continued, maybe it’s not the bedrest so much as it is the knowledge that at any moment I could hemorrhage and once the bleeding began, I could die. Indeed, nothing drives one to one’s knees (figuratively, in my case) like knowing a serious medical situation lurks around the corner. Nothing makes avoiding sin seem more urgent than knowing the accounting could be quite near.
The reality, of course, is that none of us know what day is our last. None of us know when life might change suddenly and death might loom large. But few of us pray that way. Ever.
Advent is a time to reflect upon the coming joy, the sweet Baby in the manger. The Baby came so that we could die in peace. We don’t often take Advent to reflect on that, though. We get caught in the bustle of the most wonderful time of the year.
Nothing is so precious as a baby. Nothing smells so sweet. No cheek feels so soft. Nothing brings us closer to Christ, closer to our Creator than to inhale the breath of a baby and wonder at the miracle.
Nothing except prayer.
Prayer allows us to communicate with God; prayer is the closest we come to heaven. If everything else fell away, we’d still have prayer. And I recently learned that that’s all we really need. God provides the rest.