After those days his wife Elizabeth conceived, and for five months she remained in seclusion…
And Mary remained with her about three months and then returned to her home. (Luke 1:24, 56, NRS V)
I have often heard preachers romanticize the tedium of waiting. They say, “Advent is about waiting.” We talk about waiting with hope, about active waiting versus passive waiting. We recall the way kids count down the days until they can open Christmas presents. We talk about the waiting of pregnancy, and about the appropriateness of the metaphor “she’s expecting.”
But it’s all just waiting. Between Mary’s Magnificat, Elizabeth’s prophecy, and the events of Christmas, there’s a lot of waiting. It is notable that the author says nothing about those mundane days. Eight months elapse in two sentences.
We know that the time was not necessarily boring, but it was full of everyday tasks: working, cooking, doing laundry, fixing broken things, weariness, sleeping, travel. The gospel authors, like any good storyteller, skips over these nondescript days in order to advance the story.
That’s one of the reasons I love the carving of Joseph in the photo above. You can see the weariness on his face. This is presumably after the long journey, after Jesus’s birth, perhaps after several sleepless nights of feeding and diaper changing.
It’s also a face full of love, because that’s what makes the waiting and the everyday experiences important. That’s what makes the waiting and the uncertainty and our mortality bearable.
Prayer: Maker of Time and Giver of Life, help us to bear the waiting and the uncertainty with love.
—Rev. Dr. David Barnhart, Jr.
I think it interesting that no one really puts much thought into what women do when they are “expecting”. It’s a lot more than just waiting. In those days I’m guessing there was making baby clothes and prepping the home to receive a child. Probably putting aside dry goods and preserving foods that she wouldn’t have time to deal with soon after the child was born. I’m guessing it’s the men who were doing most of the “waiting”…