when advent feels empty


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.”

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