Advent Reflection Series #1

Matthew Kelly’s Dynamic Catholic program is doing a series called “Best Advent Ever,” so for every day of Advent, you get a little inspiration in your email inbox, along with a reflection question. So the first question was…

What was the most important thing you did this year, and how did you prepare for it?

I was thinking, when I struggled to put my socks on this past Sunday, that it is the first Sunday of Advent and I am now a literal symbol of the season. I sympathize with Mary more than I ever did. Imagine being 13 or 14 years old and being told by an angel that your entire life is going to change if you only say “yes” to God without knowing what he has in store for you. Imagine going to the house of your relative who is way past childbearing years but is pregnant, just like you. Imagine having to ride on the back of a donkey while 9 months pregnant and about to give birth at any time.

And imagine going through the entire thing with none of the prenatal care, pain and discomfort relief, or medical knowledge that we have with pregnancies today. Nowadays, at least in the United States, very few women die in childbirth. Back then, I’m sure the percentage was much higher. Mary probably heard all kinds of terrible birth (and death) stories. It wasn’t like she could count on getting an epidural or having a C-section. All she had to go on was faith.

Anyway, back to the prompt. I suppose getting pregnant was the most important thing I did this year, although it was unintentional, and I’m preparing by organizing all the baby stuff people have been kind enough to give me. Also by trying not to read too many birth stories on the Internet and get all freaked out.

Honestly, I’ve been trying to mentally and spiritually prepare myself more than anything. Part of that is trying, like Mary, to go on faith. Even today, with all the medical enhancements and new technology, pregnancy and childbirth are still full of unknowns. It’s still up to God. The ob/gyn tells you to make a birth plan, but in the same breath, she also tells you to plan on discarding the plan. Don’t cling too tightly to it because anything could happen, and most of it is beyond anyone’s control. Similarly, parenting is full of unknowns. I can’t even begin to imagine these unknowns because I’m not there yet, and I want to at least get past the birth before I start thinking of that.

The same is true of anything else in life. The modern era makes us believe that we’re in control, or at least that we have more control than we had in the past, which is a lie. Rather, the modern era has created a neat little bubble, the interior of which contains very little room for pain, suffering, discomfort, and chaos. Everything within is scheduled, planned, and controlled so we are caught in a false sense of security. The slightest little upheaval that enters the bubble causes a great amount of stress.

So, in short, I am preparing for being unprepared, if that makes any sense. I need to control what little I can fit into my neat little bubble, and let God handle the rest.