The liturgical season of Advent has long been my favorite time of the church year. As a child I enjoyed the urgency and drama of Mary and Joseph needing a place to have their baby, and ending up in a stable. Of course, I didn’t meet my first lamb or cow until I was 22, living on a 16th century farm in Cornwall, England. So, my bucolic, childhood visions of a manger did not include mud or manure. I saw my first baby born at a teaching hospital in the Bronx, and there were no mammals other than those in scrubs with masks and gloves. I did deliver a footling breech baby in a thatched hut in rural Guatemala, which actually exceeded the drama and urgency of anything I might have imagined as a youngster during the 1950s and 60s in the steel town of Lorain, Ohio. All of this aside, it has always been the mystery, the awe, and wonder that has captivated my imagination during Advent.
Angels may be my favorite part of Advent. The Christmas story always includes angels that mysteriously appear in the night, gently conveying God’s eternal message: “Fear not.”
I’d like to experience an angel someday… a real, true angel. I wonder… What will it be like?
- A warm Light in a deep darkness?
- A heralding of exquisite music that draws me into a pure and ecstatic haze of Bliss?
- A palpable Presence of Love that floods my being with awe?
“Fear Not. I am with you.”
Advent is also known as the season of expectant waiting, which is wholly (holy) ironic, because I am no good at waiting. My cane now grants me priority boarding, and I am all too happy to prance forth ahead of the crowd to take my seat in steerage.
If I dare to probe deeper, the expectant waiting of Advent offers an annual opportunity to remember the hope of a transformative love, born into a world that relegates unwed, teenage mothers, like Mary, to the sidelines of every society.
In my view, newborn babies are inherently holy beings. This changes, of course, when they refuse to sleep, and when they cry with no apparent rationale.
A fresh, healthy, pink, full-term newborn who is ready to nurse and be comforted in a parent’s arms is a pediatrician’s dream come true, and one of the most sacred moments to witness, no matter the venue.
This Advent I am savoring the season of hope. I am turning my attention toward palpable love, and glorious music. I am seeking out opportunities to see light brought into the darkness, or a deep darkness brought out into the light. I am expecting hope to surprise and delight me. I’m on the lookout for angels.
“Fear not. I am with you always.”
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