when advent feels empty

December 11, 2012


I hold this wee sleeping boy in my arms while his happy new parents chatter over my head about the birth and the sleepless nights and his little personality. He’s peaceful now, curled into my body, one leg lifted funnily up as if he’s stretching. A winter gift, waited for these past months.

I think of Mary, waiting. The last month, heavy with child, the daily tasks becoming harder and slower. I look at my pregnant friends and see Mary in them all. They sit with their hands across their bellies, absentmindedly stroking the child growing inside. They lift themselves slowly out of chairs and laugh at how awkward they’ve become. They wait with mingled excitement and fear for their child to arrive. And I wonder what it was like for her to feel this child kicking large inside of her, trying to imagine what he would be like, this miracle child.

And most of all I wish, I wish, I knew that feeling. If my own child had lived, I’d be heavy like Mary these December days, counting down the last weeks, hands feeling his movement under my own skin. This advent I feel my emptiness and the grief leans to embrace me again.

I have no son to wait for this year.

I notice for the first time, the darkness of advent. There is hope, yes. But we need hope because things are not right, they’re not okay.

Mary waited, a young unmarried girl, judged and in danger of disgrace, facing birth, an event as deadly then as it still is for so many women around the world, living in poverty under the ruthless and harsh hand of a foreign empire. I think of her and I wonder how many of her nine months were happy ones?

And yet into this oh so broken space is born a child whose name means the Lord saves. God shows up in the most forsaken corner of the earth, in the midst of poverty, occupation, fear.

Nothing is too broken for him. Nothing is too desperate for him. Because he comes to save what was lost.

I lost something this year that I will always mourn, this child of ours that I won’t get to meet in this lifetime. And the weight of that loss can feel overwhelming at times. But this loss will not be wasted. From our hurt will come something that is redeeming. Out of pain can come healing, out of hardship can come new strength, sorrow can bring new understanding, fear can turn to courage, out of death He can bring life.

I don’t always know how to hold these two things together, in one hand pain, in the other hand hope. They don’t fit easily or simply. I don’t have all the answers or the right words to express it.

Instead I hold them out side by side in front of me as an offering. This is all I have to give, this pain and this hope. And I know he takes them gently from me and, as I watch, slowly weaves them together into something beautiful. Nothing is wasted.


I’m linking up with Prodigal Magazine and She Loves Magazine, for their Broken Hallelujah feature: “by writing through our stories, we hope to let in more of the light and find more of the Hallelujah.”

Photo source: Pinterest

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  • Oh Fiona, I feel you, I am sending all the light and love your way. This year, I did not want Christmas to come either… for the precise same reason: it means the 2nd year went by and we are still in the midst of this.

    I think hope is a gift, it is what keeps me going, what has kept me through. Maybe I am delusional, for insisting on this (particular) hope, and for refusing to be beaten by all of this (if I let the sadness stay, it will destroy me, no doubt on that), so I insist on looking for the joy. On actively searching for it, and on being grateful too. There are days when it comes easy and there are days when I really have to force myself, but like you said:

    “From our hurt will come something that is redeeming. Out of pain can come healing, out of hardship can come new strength, sorrow can bring new understanding, fear can turn to courage, out of death He can bring life.”

    Let’s just hope and pray that literally, there soon will be life in our bellies too.

    Hugs. I’m lighting you a candle.

    • fionalynne

      Sweet Amanda, your determined focus on hope and joy is so very inspiring. Praying this Christmas can be that for you this year. Hugs my friend xx

  • Such beautiful words, Fiona. These things are so, so hard. In my experience, Christmas is one of the hardest times of the year when you are still waiting to hold a child in your arms. But at the same time, as you so beautifully point out, Christmas offers us hope.

    What lovely insights into Mary’s experience. I think sometimes we forget how hard a trial that must have been for her. We just think about how joyful pregnancy and birth are, and forget that her situation was an incredibly strained one.

    Hugs and prayers.

    • fionalynne

      Thank you Kathleen. Many mothers are writing about how they identify with Mary in a new way these weeks. It’s helped to feel like I have a different way I can identify with her, that I am not excluded from that experience just because I’m not yet a mother.

  • “You Yourself have recorded my wanderings. Put my tears in Your bottle. Are they not in Your records?” ~PSALM 56:8

    Love that He never lets our pain go to waste.

    Visiting from Broken Hallelujah.

    • fionalynne

      That’s a beautiful thought, that no sorrow goes unnoticed or ignored. Thank you, Nancy.

  • Well, I will vouch that He weaved at least one beautiful thing out your pain – your unique ability to express it – that tension between pain and hope that so perfectly sums up the advent season. Thank you for sharing these beautiful-painful words.

    • fionalynne

      Thank you, Rosie xx

  • It is a wonderful post Fionna… I can only send you some warm hugs and warm thoughts. Take Care.

  • Fiona, I’m so glad that you found the words and at the same time so heartbroken with you. I’ve come to love Advent as a time of darkness, a much needed acknowledgment that everything isn’t fine, that there are questions with no answers, pain and suffering and injustice. But as you said, a season of finding hope even in those most broken places.