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The Uncertainty of Advent – A Challenge to Our Generation

December 7, AD 2015 2 Comments

My husband is about to defend his doctoral dissertation. A journey that began even before we were married is finally (finally!) coming to an end. It’s a cause for much joy, certainly, but it’s also the cause for a good deal of anxiety. The next stage is the job search, and a possible cross country move. In the meantime, we wait in uncertainty.

I’m a planner by nature, and I don’t do well with uncertainty. I like to know what anticipate. I like to plan out a trajectory for the foreseeable future. But that isn’t in God’s plan for my family.

This is even more evident to me during the Advent season, when confronted with a young Hebrew mother who knew nothing of the future. Pious tradition suggests that – even prior to the angel Gabriel’s appearance – Mary had made a vow of perpetual virginity. Motherhood (physical motherhood, at least) was certainly not a part of her plan for herself. Yet Mary – full of grace and full of trust – gave God her wholehearted yes.

I have two daughters, and the uncertainty of the time before their births was extremely challenging for me. I can only imagine what that would have been like for Mary – Mary who lived in a tightly knit community, who would have likely had the assistance of other women as she prepared to deliver her firstborn son.

Mary’s profound trust is what enabled her to not give in to anxiety. Her trust was rooted in a belief in God’s goodness, but also in hope for the fulfillment of God’s plan. Mary was less concerned with the minute details – where Jesus would be born, who would be on hand to assist her, etc. – and more concerned with the big picture. Mary, as a faithful Jewish woman, longed for the coming of her Messiah. To play a role (and a significant role, at that) in the coming of that Messiah was worth far more than any inconveniences or sufferings she may have had to endure.

This stands in stark contrast to our modern day celebration of Advent. Our family does have Advent prayers that we say each night. We light our Advent wreath, we sing hymns, we read scripture and stories. I’m ashamed to admit, however, that most of my Christmas preparations have still consisted in gift making/purchasing. There isn’t anything wrong with gift exchanges, but I tend to obsess more about it than I need to. I tend to become absorbed in our travel plans, in packing suitcases, in wrapping gifts. No matter how much preparation I do beforehand, it is far easier to spend Advent wrapped in my pretty little distractions than it is to face the stark coldness of that stable long ago. It is hard to rest there, in silent anticipation.

A fear of silence is a hallmark of the millennial generation. It is a very real challenge to set aside the smart phone, to turn off the TV, to not desperately try to find some way to distract ourselves from the reality of the season. Because there, in the midst of the silence, we are faced with the uncertainty of our existence. In the silence, we are faced with the reality that the world is not our home, and that the story of redemption is still unfolding. Advent didn’t end two thousand years ago. We are still awaiting the second coming of Christ, and it is that endpoint that we are meant to be oriented toward.

Yet, faced with Advent’s uncertainty, we try to distract ourselves with what seems certain. We buy food for our meals, we clean our homes, and we wrap our presents. It is a false sense of security, but it makes us feel better.

True security lies in Christ, not in certainty, though. As wonderful as holiday meals, and warm homes, and good company, and generosity are, they cannot provide the security that the babe in the manger can. It is the great irony of the Christian faith that that which seems most fragile and vulnerable – an infant boy in a stable, a suffering man on a cross – is what anchors our entire existence. Yet it does.

And so, this Advent season and always, we are called to embrace the innate uncertainty of life, relying fully on the Christ, our hope.

Filed in: Mary, Prayer, Religion, Spirituality • Tags: ,

About the Author:

Michele Chronister is a theologian (married to a theologian), mother to two little girls, and freelance writer on the side. She is received her BA and MA in theology from the University of Notre Dame (’09 and ’11) but her favorite way to use her degrees is answering her preschooler’s questions about faith at bedtime. She is the author of Handbook for Adaptive Catechesis and the co-author of Faith Beginnings – Family Nurturing from Birth Through Preschool (both published through Ligouri publications). She has also contributed articles to Catholic Digest and Catechetical Leader, and is a member of the National Catholic Partnership on Disability’s Council on Intellectual and Development Disabilities. When he oldest was a baby, she realized that their family life had taken on a sort of monastic rhythm – eat, pray, play, sleep. Prompted by this, she started the blog My Domestic Monastery (www.mydomesticmonastery.com), where she shares inspiration for families wanting to grow in holiness.
  • Elijah fan

    St. Anne, take them in your prayers for possibly two months…asking God to give them special breakthroughs and safety also.

  • Thank you for this post! It’s so applicable to our daily lives.