During each of my wife’s three pregnancies, there was a constant companion on her nightstand: the book What to Expect When You’re Expecting. This book has almost become the bible for families journeying through nine months leading to the birth of their child. Every step of pregnancy, the book tells couples what is happening with the fetus; what is happening with the mother; what is normal at various stages, what is not; and what they need to prepare for as the baby continues to develop and grow.
In the season of Advent, the expectation that Messiah will show up grows within us and stirs our souls. What can we expect as we renew our hope in a returning Savior and the world made new?
There is this fascinating story in Luke’s birth narrative about Mary, pregnant with Jesus, coming to visit Elizabeth, pregnant with John the Baptizer. Mary is sneaking away from her town, where she’s kind of a scandal as an unwed teen mother, to see Elizabeth, a sideshow attraction due to her advanced-age pregnancy. Mary might have been wondering if Elizabeth would be welcoming and accepting or judgmental and standoffish. But when Elizabeth sees Mary, she feels John leap in her womb and she exclaims joyfully that she is honored to have her Savior present with her because Mary brought him to her, albeit pre-natal-ly.
Elizabeth’s joy thrills Mary and she responds with her amazing song, traditionally known as the Magnificat, where she expresses her confidence in the revolutionary and earth-shaking work of God through her yet-to-be-born son. Have you read Mary’s song lately? It is so scandalous to the status quo that there have been governments that have prohibited its use in churches so as to not stir up the church members to protest the established order of things!
But notice how John’s Olympic somersault in Elizabeth triggers her blessing of Mary which triggers Mary’s song of revolution. Even before Jesus is born, God is “showing up” in all sorts of remarkable ways.
What can/should we expect as we await the return of Jesus? Perhaps that there are people all around us carrying a pre-natal Jesus with them. That, if we will increase our awareness, we would sense God’s presence moving upon us as we interact with someone. And not just in the kind, generous and graceful people, will we sense the presence of the Divine; but also in our rough interactions with curmudgeons, jerks and oddballs. And also when we’re in the presence of the sick, mentally unstable, poor, oppressed and different. What if we started to expect Jesus to be present in more and more of our interactions?
May we be aware of Christ in the other this Christmas. May we start recognizing that God is up to something even now. May we sense that every moment and every person is one pregnant with salvation.