When Elizabeth was six months pregnant, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a city in Galilee, to a virgin who was engaged to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David’s house. The virgin’s name was Mary. When the angel came to her, he said, “Rejoice, favored one! The Lord is with you!” She was confused by these words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. The angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Mary. God is honoring you. Look! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great and he will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of David his father. He will reign over Jacob’s house forever, and there will be no end to his kingdom.”
Luke 1:26-33 (CEB)
I can’t explain to you the overwhelming emotion that I had after peeing on that little stick and watching the plus sign appear. I had been married for seven years, and my gut longing for a baby was intense. When I was in Target and I heard an infant crying, I had an overwhelming urge to comfort the child. I mean, I had to stop myself from asking the mom if I could just hold her baby for a little bit. Every time an infant was carried into a room, my eyes would follow her beautiful face, and warmth would fill me as I saw her glowing expression. My biological clock felt like a time bomb ticking, because the urgency was so intense.
It’s not that way for every woman. I understand that. But it was for me. And after my experience, I know why women keep having babies, even with the advent of birth control. Even in the midst of war-torn countries. Even when we know about overpopulation. Even when we have incredible careers and no time for dirty diapers. Some of us just have that evolutionary drive within us to create.
I kept a box of those magic sticks in the bathroom and regularly tested to see if just the right mix of hormones would turn that negative into a positive.
Even with my massive baby-shaped vacuum sucking in my soul, we weren’t “trying” to have a child. I knew that would have been irresponsible. Our lives never seemed settled enough to bring someone else into our crazy world. My husband and I were both pastors in small rural congregations, so we never had enough money, and our jobs were never secure. We were always worried that we would have to move. Plus, I didn’t feel fit to be a mother. I mean, I had mountains of laundry that needed to be folded, I skipped breakfast on a regular basis, and sometimes the only nutrition I would partake in was a greasy pizza at 11:00 at night.
So when that second blue line appeared, crossing over the first line, making that negative sign into a positive, my world felt like it was overturning. Even with such longing, I panicked.
The elation, the fear, and the feelings of inadequacy were intense. When I told my husband, I wept. He comforted me, held me, and whispered, “Don’t worry. You’re going to be a great mom.” And he added with curiosity, “I thought you wanted this.”
I always think about that moment when I read this passage. Of course, Mary wasn’t holding a urine-soaked stick, bringing her the good news about the fruit of her womb. A messenger was there, telling her not to fear. But the words seem a lot the same. The angel was coaxing her, letting her know that she was adequate, and God was honoring her. In fact, she was going to great. And there would be incredible things in store for the child.
And yet, Mary’s feelings must have been intense. The world must have been overturning, as she dreaded facing her fiancé, who was not the father of the baby. Or as she thought about what happened to women in her position. She had to have imagined what would have happened if she were caught. An angry mob would surround her, hurling stones at her, until her brown skin turned black and blue, and she would die along with that great hope in her womb.
In this time of Advent, as we’re pregnant with expectation and all of these intense emotions swirl about us, as we long to see God’s reign, as we hope for a just and peaceful world, it seems that these messages are still important. In our elation, our fear, our inadequacy, and our confusion, we will need to keep holding one another, reminding one another, “Don’t be afraid. God is with you.”
[This post was written as a part of Common English Bible’s Advent Blog Tour. Be sure to check out the other postings. They have collected a wonderful group of writers.]