Ever since I became a mom — more than 20 years and four kids ago — the Advent and Christmas season has taken on a whole different perspective for me. That perspective has opened up the meaning of the season for me and brought me closer to Mary in a mother-to-mother kind of way.
I understand the feelings of hope, worry and anticipation of meeting your child. And I think about Mary. I wonder if she felt those same emotions that I did as she neared the end of her pregnancy.
After all, she was a mom. She would have felt Jesus’ stirrings within her for all those months. And now the end was near and soon she would welcome her son.
Perhaps that’s why every year when I hear the Christmas song, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” I hear it from a different point of view.
Based on my own pregnancy experiences, I can imagine the pleadings of a very pregnant Mary in her final weeks of pregnancy, wishing to meet her son, both out of anticipation and exhaustion.
Recalling my own discomfort those final weeks before I gave birth, I can’t even imagine having to leave your home and travel in that condition like Mary did. All those thoughts bring that song alive for me.
I am acutely aware, though, that not everyone has the unique perspective of motherhood. That does not mean, however, that this song doesn’t have implications for others during this season.
After all, what better song to remind us of our call to extend our care and love to all during the holiday season, a season that is all about welcoming Christ into our world and lives?
Often, that welcoming spirit can be seen in the hospitality we show at this time of year to friends and family. We welcome them into our homes and show them our love and hospitality. Come and sit with us, we tell them. You are welcome here. There is room at our table.
Unfortunately, though, that type of hospitality is not something that everyone in society experiences. Mary and Joseph certainly did not encounter it during their travels.
Similarly, there are those in society today that encounter the same unwelcoming spirit. Many people — the homeless, the troubled, the immigrant, anyone who society deems unworthy or suspect — encounter closed doors and minds.
Rather than people saying to them, “O Come, O Come,” we tell them that there is no room at our table for them.
And that reality is something that as people of faith we must face and wrestle with. The Advent season by nature is a time of preparation. It is a time for us to prepare our hearts to welcome Christ, and by that, we mean all.
Currently, we are living in times of deep division and animosity. During Advent, we should ask ourselves what part we are playing in the journey to Christ’s birth. Are we ready to open the door when the time comes? Or will it be closed? Will there be room at our table or will it already be full?
These are good questions to ask ourselves as we travel closer to Christmas. By doing so, we may discover something profound about ourselves and our faith.
This third week of Advent, we are almost to the birth of Christ ourselves. We, too, are on that journey with Mary and Joseph. And we want to meet this precious baby, our savior. Are we prepared to call out, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel” to all?
By Susan Hines-Brigger, Catholic News Service
Susan Hines-Brigger is a mother of four. She is also an executive editor of St. Anthony Messenger magazine.