I stretched out on the bed and reluctantly prepared for another night of leg cramps and propped pillows. The Christmas presents were wrapped and ready. The Christmas cookies decorated. The overnight hospital bag was packed and waiting in the corner. My sister had arrived and was ready to look after my daughter.
Still, nothing happened.
The first pain hit at 9:30 PM. I knew immediately that I had skipped early labor and entered active labor. At the hospital, the nurse called it precipitate delivery. There would be no time for pain medicine. I was disappointed, but at least something was happening. I wouldn’t be pregnant forever.
I looked at the clock and wondered if our baby’s birthday would be Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
Then the nurse checked the heartbeat and the questions about pain medicine and possible arrival time turned into terrible silence.
Something was wrong. The nurse wasn’t smiling. She just kept moving the obstetrical stethoscope from one spot to another.
“I’m having trouble finding the heartbeat.” After a few more attempts, she muttered something about getting the doctor, and I was left alone in the small examination room
The wait was excruciating. I knew what labor was like. I’d been through it two years earlier. I couldn’t imagine giving birth while overcome by grief.
Sometimes, waiting is like a game. It’s fun. Exciting.
Sometimes, waiting is a chore. It’s demanding. Requires effort.
Sometimes, waiting is agonizing. Terrifying. Earth-shattering.
This pregnancy had been all of these.
Before I became Catholic, every day between Halloween and December 25th was Christmas, not Advent. I focused on making sure the food was ready, the cards were sent, and the presents were wrapped. I prepared the house for Christmas, but I did not stop to think about how to prepare myself for Christmas.
Bottom line, I did not know how to wait.
As Catholics, we know that Advent is about waiting. Preparing. Journeying with Israel through Salvation History. A man grows into a family. Twelve sons become twelve tribes. The tribes become a nation. Prophets, judges and kings lead them. Everything presses on to one great event.
A young woman steps into the center of all things and says yes to the most incredible proposition of all time. God has chosen you, Mary. And all creation waits for an answer.
As that final week of Advent arrives, we see clearly. This is more than a journey through time. This is a journey to a person.
To the God-man. Messiah. Mary’s child. God’s own Son.
At times, the wait was exciting. Seas parted. Angels visited. Walls tumbled. A donkey talked.
At times, the wait was difficult. Brothers argued. Kings failed. Generations were exiled.
At times, the wait was terrifying. People died. Nations fought. God was silent.
And then, He spoke.
With one word, the waiting was over. Unto us a child is born. Unto us a son is given. And upon his shoulders, dominion rests. (Isaiah 9:6).
Advent quietly passes. A baby cries. The wait is over.
On Christmas Eve 1985, a doctor stepped into the examination room and heard a heartbeat. My son was born at 11:53 PM. The wait was over.
Every year, we pass through Advent and enter Christmas. The changing liturgical seasons are always fresh and new, like it is all happening right now – the waiting, the expectation, the fulfillment. And so it is.