Flash back to one year ago. It was just another snowy December Sunday morning in Valparaiso, Ind. My husband and I shuffled into Christ Lutheran Church, eager to escape the blustery wind and cold. Inside, the aroma of hot chocolate married with friendly conversations filled the lobby. Children with coats, gloves and runny noses chased each other through the hallways before Sunday school. The Advent wreath hung beautifully in the sanctuary.
We hung our coats in the hallway, scurried into the service – late as usual – and grabbed two seats in the back pew. As I sat down, I felt excited and eager to take part in one of my favorite seasons of the church year – to sing familiar songs, hear familiar readings and watch the lighting of the Advent wreath. Then I remembered we were joined together to await the birth of Mary’s child, and I felt crestfallen.
A member at Christ read the lesson for the day – it was Luke 1:5-23. The angel of the Lord tells Zechariah that his wife, Elizabeth, will bear a son. At that time, the couple was childless and had abandoned hope for conception, as Elizabeth was beyond childbearing years. Nevertheless, God answered their prayers.
But God had not yet answered mine.
After a year and a half of failed attempts to conceive a child and countless doctor appointments and fertility treatments, hearing this story was agonizing, much like the other conception success stories I heard during that stretch of time.
I sat in the pew and cried. I felt hopeless.
“Why?” I asked God. “Why does Elizabeth get to have a child, and I don’t?”
At that moment I knew that this particular Advent was going to be difficult. The entire season centers on the much anticipated birth of the Christ child. At the same time, it felt like I had nothing to anticipate in my own life. It felt as if our prayers for a child had gone unanswered.
Two and a half months after that sorrow-filled Sunday, my husband and I found out we were expecting twins. We were just as surprised as Zechariah and Elizabeth must have been. But most of all, we were grateful that the long wait was over (our twins are now 2 months old).
As I look back on that Sunday, I am reminded that this is exactly what the Advent season is about – waiting. While we wait expectantly for the birth of Jesus, the season also reminds us that God’s timeline does not always align with our own. Mary and Joseph certainly learned this lesson that very first Advent, as both Mary’s pregnancy and Jesus’ birth came at a most inconvenient time.
That difficult Advent taught me that God’s answers to our prayers – which can often be challenging – open up new opportunities to witness God’s grace and mercy.
This Advent season may you use this time to wait patiently on God, trusting in God’s timing and knowing that God’s grace will abound.