readings of the Advent season have focused on the fact that we live in a world in need of a Savior. We are called to reflect more deeply on the coming of Jesus, and I guess we do that by reading a bunch of Scripture about suffering, blindness, deafness, loneliness, grief, and the end of the world. Not exactly joyful. Then, in the middle of our preparation for Christmas, we read readings about rejoicing, the blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear and those who weep, shout for joy.
My thoughts turn to Mary. Mary, the picture of perfect peace, acceptance and joy, did not have it all that easy. Her baby, was conceived by the Holy Spirit, without Joseph the man she was engaged to. Joseph, who should have refused to marry her, did not refuse and so they were a marked couple. Not only that, in her first trimester, when she was probably exhausted and sick, she traveled, walked most likely, to the village of Elizabeth to take care of her in her last trimester. That's much different than tenderly caressing her tummy and humming lullabies while seated on a cushy chair. Then, she had to go to Bethlehem, another long journey, in her last days before Jesus was born. I've had three babies, those days toward the end drag on forever and are extremely uncomfortable, and to be traveling at that time would not be ideal. In fact, I avoided almost all travel by that time. To top it off, when they get to Bethlehem, there was no room in the hotels. They had to go door to door looking for a place to stay the night and end up in a stable with a bunch of animals.
The reality of Mary's time to prepare for her bundle of joy, was marked with one stress and suffering after another, it seems. Thus, the three purple candles of the Advent wreath can be a reflection on Mary's stress and suffering as she prepared for Christ's birth. It can also represent my own stress and suffering as I prepare for Christmas day and throughout my life.
Imagine, then, what it was like for Mary to realize that Jesus was on His way, as they settled down in this barn. She probably smelled some pretty stinky animal smells, felt cow breath on her neck and had to avoid sitting on anything wet. I bet there where chickens making chicken noises, sheep snoring, and who knows what else making this place less than ideal for a small, perfect little baby to be born. Yet, after, and in spite of it all, I bet Mary was filled with joy knowing that Jesus was about to arrive. She was probably so ready to get that baby in her arms that the noises, smells, jeers and stress of her life were nothing. Instead, she was consumed with joyful hope.
At least for the moment.
This Advent, and this life, is full of purple candles of suffering. Some days, weeks or years, are worse than others. Not just life, but these days before Christmas are full of stress. There is so much to do to prepare. There are Nutcracker performances for the girls to perform in, Christmas cards to write, presents to buy, wrap and send, festive meals to be planned, and not enough time to do it all. It is not ideal for what I conceive as a blessed and peaceful Advent.
Yet, we have the rose candle of joy and rejoicing. Jesus, and Christmas, is almost here. Just like Mary we realize the time is so close now. Hooray! I can't wait until that moment when I see the eyes of my girls light up with excitement or watch B.B. scoot around and squeal in the midst of unwrapped gifts. I am so looking forward to Christmas Mass and singing the familiar carols as loudly as I can because everyone else is too. I am consumed (almost anyway) in joyful hope.
At least for the moment.
Mary still had the labor to go through, and we still have one more purple candle to light. Briefly we, like Mary, can rejoice, but there remains a lot to do, a lot of stress and suffering, before the anticipated day arrives. And, there remains a lot to do, a lot of stress and suffering, before the anticipated day of Christ's second coming (or when I arrive in heaven, whatever comes first).