8 years ago, I was blessed to be “great with child” during the season of Advent. Our first child, a much-prayed-for, long anticipated rainbow baby, was due on January 3rd.
Though I worship in a liturgical setting now, much of my life has been spent in churches who have a pretty casual view of Advent. Maybe we lit a candle each week, or had a short reading, but that was about it. Most families were more observant of Elf on the Shelf than the season of waiting and reflection of the church calendar.
That year, though, as I prepared to give birth, I found myself settling deep into myself and reflecting on what life must have been like for Mary. Did she have heartburn? Wasn’t she so sore after riding on that donkey for days? Was her family at all present or supportive of her during this season? Was she scared to give birth, like I was? What was it like to feel the first kicks, punches, and rolls of the infant Savior in her belly?
Just as I was in a season of waiting, so Mary waited in obedience and anticipation. That Advent was special for me. Different. More embodied.
Every year, for the Christmas Eve service, someone would sing “Labor of Love” by Andrew Peterson. Often, it was me—though that year, my 38-weeks-pregnant lack of breath space and energy kept me off the stage. If you haven’t heard it, it’s a beautiful song (there are recordings on YouTube) that tells a rather raw story of Jesus’ birth in the stable. I love the song because it humanizes the event, brings it back down to earth, reminds us that Mary literally gave birth to our Savior: crying, cold, moonlight, blood on the ground.
What struck me most as I reflected and related to Mary that year, and especially as I listened to that song, was the everyday, ever-present realities of her obedience. Her obedience led her to heartburn. To swollen belly and feet. To an awkward engagement. To giving birth in a stable. To likely being ostracized by her community. Fleeing everything she knew to go to Egypt for her child’s safety. Her obedience turned her life upside down, in both large and small ways. It wasn’t something she could ever escape or forget.
This “everydayness” of her obedience rings true for me even now, years later, as I consider how my obedience in moving overseas affects my own everyday life. My obedience has led me to live far away from so many people I love. To get malaria. To learn a new way of driving. To food poisoning. To major cultural stress. To sleep with a mosquito net. To dress differently. To learn greetings in a new language. To get more awkward every time I return to my passport country. To parent differently. My obedience is always in front of me, something I can’t forget.
And yet the blessings for Mary—and for us—are everyday, too. Her obedience gave birth (literally) to the Savior of the World. Our obedience makes His name known and His kingdom come in the nations. Her obedience set grand plans of redemption and grace into motion, and our obedience works to fulfill those plans, too. She got to parent a perfect child. We get to live in His freedom and walk in His light. We get to live a life radically different than the one we likely would have planned for ourselves, and experience the tremendous blessings that come with this life overseas.
As we prepare to enter yet another year of chaos and unknowns, I pray for obedience like Mary. I pray for the willingness to step into difficult things, knowing they will affect my everyday life, and that I would walk forward boldly anyway. I pray for the kingdom-mindedness that led Mary through such a difficult season, that it would lead me through my own. And I pray for Christ’s peace, that permeated Mary’s pregnancy and birth, that it might permeate every labor of love I work toward in my own life.
Where has your everyday obedience taken you this year?