Advent, 2012 – Day 1
Welcome to the Chase family celebration of Advent – 24 days of devotional thoughts leading up to Christmas. This tradition has gone on in our home for over thirty years but this is the first time I am sharing the tradition with a larger circle of friends and colleagues by means of my website. Each year the overall theme varies, but my desire from the beginning has always been to prepare our family for the full joy of Christmas.
The theme for this year is “The First Advent.”
The first season of Advent was not 24 days or even a few weeks in a random December two thousand years ago. The first Advent was nine months long as Mary anticipated the birth of her child.
Advent 2012 – Day 2
Welcome to Day 2 of the Chase family celebration of Advent! Join us as we look at the powerful emotions that Mary experienced during the nine months of her pregnancy as she anticipated the birth of Jesus.
Before that angel appeared, Mary’s life was running in neutral. Luke doesn’t give a clue where this event with the angel took place other than to say it happened in Nazareth, the small town where she had likely grown up. Surrounded by family and friends and familiar sights she had known all her life, Mary likely felt at ease. Life was predictable.
Enter the angel.
Advent 2012 – Day 3
Welcome to Day 3 of the Chase family celebration of Advent! Join us as we look at the powerful emotions that Mary experienced during the nine months of her pregnancy as she anticipated the birth of Jesus.
At the time when Gabriel appeared to Mary, to her knowledge angels had not appeared in Israel – let alone in Nazareth – for over 400 years. No wonder Mary was frightened. But she was also…confused.
Advent 2012 – Day 4
Welcome to Day 4 of the Chase family celebration of Advent! Join us as we look at the powerful emotions that Mary experienced during the nine months of her pregnancy as she anticipated the birth of Jesus.
How did Mary feel right after the angel disappeared? What did she see when she opened her eyes and looked around her? Were women from her village walking to the well with jars? Was a neighbor feeding her chickens? Was a shopkeeper unrolling a tarp to shade his wares? Was life going on as usual all around her?
With the strong presence of an angel at her side, Mary may have experienced confidence, but when Gabriel disappeared to return to the throne room of God, perhaps other feelings crowded in. Mary may have felt…nervous.
Advent 2012 – Day 5
Many of you have been coming back daily to participate in this Chase family celebration of Advent. I am glad. For those of you who are new, we have been looking at the powerful emotions that Mary experienced during the nine months of her pregnancy as she anticipated the birth of Jesus.
A pregnancy is supposed to be a time of happiness, but for many of the women I work with who are facing unplanned pregnancies, the joys are hard to find. They wonder if their sexual partner will go AWOL and abandon his responsibilities as the birthfather of the child. My clients often try to hide the pregnancy from their other children or from Mom and Dad. As a result, my clients are lonely people. They have no one to comfort them when they fight the effects of morning sickness. They have no one at their side who is excited by feeling the first kick of the baby within the womb. They arrive at the hospital with no one nearby to ease the pain of labor and delivery. Tears fall.
Mary understood those emotions. She herself experienced…sadness.
Advent 2012 – Day 6
You’re back! Thank you for returning to my blog for another Advent devotional. And if you are new, all the earlier devotionals are listed below.
When I worked with single moms at a pregnancy center, there was one word that described every one of them: Busy! Teen moms were trying to balance keeping up with schoolwork, caring for the baby, and holding down a part time job. The financial pressure of diapers, daycare, and doctor bills drove my girls to work hard around the clock, just to keep their heads above water. They felt the disapproval of people around them. My clients loved their children but they felt completely overwhelmed by the heavy load of responsibility they carried.
Mary too knew what it felt to be…overwhelmed.
Advent 2012 – Day 7
Advent reminds us that we need to prepare our hearts for Christmas. I hope these daily devotionals are helping you understand a small portion of what Mary must have experienced as she carried the Christ child within her womb.
When Mary told Joseph that she was pregnant, he planned to divorce her. Mary felt overwhelmed at the thought of becoming a single parent.
But that night, when Joseph lay down to sleep, God spoke to him in a dream assuring him that this child was not the result of unfaithfulness on Mary’s part but just the reverse: Her faith-full-ness to God was the reason God chose her to parent this child.
When Joseph told Mary that he too had received a message from God and that they would still be married, Mary must have felt…relieved.
Advent 2012 – Day 8
Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. It was a once in a lifetime event, something for which he became world famous and has long been remembered. Few of us are destined for such fame. We are not going to be known all over the world like Neil Armstrong. We will lead routine lives of faithfulness in our own neighborhoods. A thousand years from now, in this world, we will only be another name on a family genealogical record, like all those people listed in the “begats” in Genesis.
Mary was different. The more Mary thought about the child within her and the message she heard from Gabriel, the more amazed she became that she was chosen for this task. But in her amazement she did not become proud.
Instead Mary felt…humbled.
Advent 2012 – Day 9
Advent is a time of anticipation. I hope you look forward to these devotional thoughts each day.
Our 3-year-old grandson in Texas has been anticipating a visit from his grandparents. For days, our son has told Simeon, “Gramma and Grampa are coming!” Tim helped Simeon make a paper chain to count the days until our arrival. The simple task of tearing off a single paper link each day made our impending visit a bit more tangible.
For Mary, the reality of her pregnancy was hard to comprehend in those early months. Her body didn’t look any different. The baby was too small for Mary to feel a tiny kick. But when she visited Elizabeth and saw her older relative visibly pregnant and heard her talking of the baby leaping within her womb, Mary’s own pregnancy must have seemed more real.
Advent 2012 – Day 10
Advent is a time for hope. I trust these devotionals about events that happened two thousand years ago in the past are helping you look forward to Christ’s future return.
When Mary headed to Judea to see Elizabeth, Zechariah was also in the home. As a priest, Zechariah was familiar with the Law, but k nowing his own son would be a forerunner for the Messiah, he spent some serious time during Elizabeth’s pregnancy boning up on all the prophecies about the Messiah. How do I know? If you look at the cross-references in your Bible margins near Zechariah’s song of praise in Luke 1, they lead you like a radioactive tracer to all the places where Zechariah spent his own devotional time during those early months. He had been studying in 1 Samuel, Isaiah, Ezekiel and Malachi. He wanted to be able to teach his son all he would need to know for his future ministry.
Thus, when Mary showed up on Zechariah’s doorstep, his excitement about the coming Messiah overflowed on to Mary. As they looked together at the scriptures and their promise of a redeemer, Mary’s heart filled with…hope.
Advent 2012 – Day 11
Our time of Advent is almost half over already. How far along was Mary now in her pregnancy? It too was almost half over.
The angel Gabriel told Mary that her relative Elizabeth was already in her sixth month when he first appeared to Mary. Assuming that Mary spent a few weeks preparing for the trip to see her relatives in Judea, and knowing that she stayed in the home of Elizabeth and Zechariah for three months, we can guess that Mary was present at the birth of baby John. And so, by the time she returned to Galilee, Mary herself was close to the end of her fourth month of pregnancy.
During the fifth month of her pregnancy, Mary, like Elizabeth before her, may have entered an extended period of seclusion. Matthew’s gospel tells us that Joseph did not have relations with Mary during this pregnancy. The purpose of seclusion, a time apart from society, was to isolate a person who was “ritually unclean.” A man was not to have sex, or any physical contact, with his wife during a ritual period of isolation, a time set aside for religious reasons rather than hygienic ones. The man would be defiled by such contact. In this case, however, Joseph was not the one who would be defiled by touching his wife. Mary was not ritually unclean: She was carrying God’s own child. On the contrary, Joseph abstained from touching his wife to avoid defiling Mary.
In her isolation, Mary felt…cherished.
Advent 2012 – Day 12
My grandson had his Christmas program for preschool last night. He practiced his songs and danced around the living room for days, flailing his arms as he whirled hither and yon. It took four adults to keep an eye on this ball of energy. After the program, he came home and collapsed in bed exhausted. We adults were able to sit back and relax.
As Mary entered the fifth month of her personal Advent, her womb began to swell. Gone was the excessive yearning for sleep that accompanies the first trimester of a pregnancy.
With this being her first pregnancy, she had fewer responsibilities in the home. There were no other children to care for. She had time to ponder. After all the emotional energy poured into telling her parents and Joseph, after the physical strain of traveling to and from Judea to help Elizabeth, and after the mental exercise of studying prophecies of the Messiah with Zechariah, Mary was at last able to pause, sit down, and think about her son.
As she pondered, Mary was able to experience…peace.
Advent 2012 – Day 13
Welcome once again to this journey back to the very first Advent season, the nine months of Mary’s pregnancy.
One of my co-workers is completing her fourth month of pregnancy. I recently asked if she had felt the baby kick yet. Since this is her first pregnancy, she wasn’t sure what that felt like but she thought maybe she had. She experienced something like butterflies moving about inside her womb, a gentle feathery sensation of movement. That private moment was one only she could feel. Her husband would have to wait for a few more weeks to pass before he could join in her excitement of feeling the baby move.
Mary, too, was only finishing her fourth month. Did Mary recognize that first feathery movement within her womb soon after she returned to Joseph in Nazareth?
When she did, Mary experienced…tenderness.
Advent 2012 – Day 14
Mary experienced powerful emotions during her personal Advent, waiting for the birth of her son Jesus. Those emotions ebbed and flowed, not necessarily following any logical order but weaving back and forth to create a beautiful fabric of their own.
In my job with Bethany Christian Services, I work with birthmoms who are making an adoption plan. Their decision to trust another family to care for their child is never easy. The birthmoms become attached to the child who has resided within their body for nine long months.
Today, for example, I participated in a placement ceremony for a two-week old baby. There were many tears. The adoptive parents wept with joy as they received a beautiful baby to raise as their own. At the same time, the birthmother cried as she handed her child into the care of the adoptive mother. Knowing she was making the best choice for her child given her own difficult circumstances did not make the action any easier for the birthmom. Her decision to go ahead with the adoption plan was an voluble expression of her enormous love for her child, her desire that her child have opportunities that she the birth mom could not provide.
Mary too became attached to the child within her womb. With each passing day, she felt increasing…love.
Advent 2012 – Day 15
Advent is traditionally a time for fasting and restraint, but in our world, with all the Christmas treats around during this season, it is easy to add on pounds. Those candies and cookies magically turn into fat all on their own. Without any effort on my part, my body automatically processes the carbohydrates and fats and assigns them a place on my hips!
Is the development of an infant within the womb any less amazing? Without any effort of the mother’s part, the growing child develops arms and legs, tiny fingers and toes. The mother does not have to remind the child, “Let’s work on developing lungs today. Oh, don’t forget ears too. And keep that heart beating!” All these elements happen automatically within the womb, unseen by human eyes.
If Mary had been aware of fetal development, she would have been awed, but even without that knowledge she was…amazed.
Advent 2012 – Day 16
Thanks for continuing to come back to join in on our family’s Advent tradition. For those who are only now joining us, be sure to read the earlier posts as well.
One year I asked our oldest son what he would like for his birthday. Tim replied that he wanted a 20-piece box of chicken McNuggets all for himself. On the rare occasions we went to a fast-food restaurant, Tim had to share a box with his two younger siblings. So that year when his special day approached, Tim and I headed to McDonald’s.
Half an hour later Tim was manfully struggling to down the last greasy bite of chicken. His stomach ached, and he learned, as most of us eventually do, that sharing offers benefits.
Did the mother of Jesus ever feel…selfish?
Advent 2012 – Day 17
Daily devotionals during Advent have been a family tradition in our home for around thirty years now. We began when our children were small and had difficulty waiting for Christmas to arrive. Like most young children, our sons and daughter would lift the packages and shake them to determine what might be inside. Did that box contain a new set of Legos? Was that an EasyBake oven? The children would sit around the tree eying all the gifts, trying to decide which one they would open on Christmas Eve.
To ease their impatience for Christmas in those early days, I placed a small box on the table each night during Advent. Wrapped in silver with a bright bow on top, the box had a false bottom which we could open night after night. Inside was a simple craft with a scripture verse that spoke about the theme for that season. One child would get to create the craft, another would read the scripture. Opening the box each night was a special honor rotated among the three kids. Opening the Advent “gift” released some of their energy as they waited to open the packages under the tree.
As the months passed and her belly swelled, Mary too felt…anticipation.
Advent 2012 – Day 18
Welcome back to the 18th day of this Advent series of devotionals on the emotions Jesus’ mother felt during her pregnancy.
Holidays from work usually offer people an opportunity for rest, but sleep is always elusive for me. I average six hours per night. Through the years, I have accumulated lots of tricks to help me get to sleep. I might take a hot shower, avoid watching TV, unplug all the LED lights, make sure the room is pitch dark, and take a couple ibuprofen. If none of those steps work, I climb out of bed, head to the kitchen, and eat a slice of cheese on whole wheat bread.
What do you do when you are tired but can’t rest? In bed with the lights out, I plan my day, I review scripture memory work, I pray. I go through the alphabet and pray for Anthony, Beth, Caroline, David. I fear Xavier, Yvonne and Zach don’t get their fair share of prayers since I usually fall asleep before getting to that end of the alphabet. The really frustrating part? My husband sleeps soundly the moment his head hits the pillow.
As Mary neared the seventh month of her pregnancy, she too struggled to get sleep. She felt…weary.
Advent 2012 – Day 19
With all the bright lights and music pointing to Christmas, Advent is a beautiful time of year. But not everyone feels beautiful.
Have you ever felt unlovely? The teenager rues the acne that spreads across his face. The middle-aged woman looks in the mirror and sees the extra pounds the years have added. The older man combs thinning hairs over a balding pate.
When a woman is in her eighth or ninth month of pregnancy, she feels more and more like a beached whale. The clothes that were so huge and baggy a few months ago, are now stretching at the seams. Fitting into a narrow airline seat is a challenge. A protruding misshapen stomach bumps into the kitchen counter. Bending over and tying one’s shoes becomes an Olympic feat.
By this point in her pregnancy, Mary may have felt…unattractive.
Advent 2012 – Day 20
Advent is quickly advancing toward Christmas. Thanks for coming back to read these brief devotionals based on Mary’s emotions during the very first Advent season.
Shortly after my husband asked me to marry him, we wanted to share our good news with my family. The news might have been good but our timing was not! My mother had just walked in after an ten-hour day of supervising the church’s annual strawberry festival. Her hair was limp from the heat of the kitchen, her apron was covered with berry stains, her sugar-splattered shoes stuck to the linoleum floor as she walked from the kitchen to the living room. Collapsing in a soft chair, she groaned with exhaustion.
Then Gene made our exciting announcement. My mother, thinking of all the work of planning a wedding, sank deeper into the chair and moaned, “I’ll give you $1000 if you elope!”
Of course she was jesting. At least I hope she was. But when one is already tired, the idea of facing yet another major obstacle can push us beyond fatigue to burn out.
Mary, almost nine months pregnant, weary from long nights with little sleep, next learned from Joseph that they would have to uproot from Nazareth and travel 80 miles to Bethlehem to register for the Roman census. No, it couldn’t wait until after the baby was born. Mary must have felt…overwhelmed.
Advent 2012 – Day 21
Advent is a time of preparation not only for the Lord’s coming but for all our relatives’ coming. Family gatherings are an important ingredient of any holiday celebration.
As our family grew and as my brothers and I brought spouses into the mix, my single brother Richard often found there was “no room for him at the inn.” At family gatherings over the 4th of July, for example, my husband and I would enjoy the guest room at my parents’ home. Another brother and his wife occupied the screened-in porch. But Richard? With no space left inside the house, he would find himself assigned to a small cot in the garage. Old bicycle tires and fishing poles hung from the rafters. Piles of tools lined the walls. Mosquitoes buzzed during the night. Moths fluttered around the bare light bulb. The atmosphere was less than homey. I am grateful for Richard’s patience and flexibility in accepting our family’s equivalent of the “stable.”
When Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem, they too found the family homestead packed with relatives. The Jewish culture, after all, values hospitality. The guest room was already occupied by Joseph’s more senior relatives, and the young mother found herself occupying the lower levels of the home where the animals hung out. Her husband’s family was nearby, but as she faced those final days of her first pregnancy, Mary must have longed for the comforting presence of her own mother. Worse, Mary’s womb began to contract, indicating that she was moving into labor. Not here! Not now! But, yes, she was going to deliver that baby there and then.
With less than perfect accommodations, Mary felt…vulnerable.
Advent 2012 – Day 22
Thanks for joining me once more for an Advent devotional. Mary’s emotions during her pregnancy, that first long Advent, reflect so many of our own emotions as we pass through life. Some emotions are positive, like hope and peace, but others are less comfortable emotions like confusion and pain.
What is the worst pain you have ever felt? A kidney stone? Appendicitis? A broken bone? I have a tendency to block out muscle aches or spasms, but after eye surgery, I experienced pain that came in such peaks and waves of agony that for hours it was hard to catch my breath. I gasped as relentless pain stabbed my eye and made me writhe and cry out for relief. It took all my strength to master the pain.
When a woman faces the birth of her child, she has a first-hand opportunity to experience pain. The muscles tighten, pulling on the back and forcing the woman to double over. The contractions come one after another, closer and closer together until the beginning of one contraction overlaps with the end of the preceding one. Coping with those contractions requires all the woman’s capacity to focus.
As Mary moved through her labor towards the moment of delivery, she experienced…pain.
Bad as Mary’s physical pain was during that long night, it was short-lived compared to the pain she would experience many years later when she watched Roman soldiers nail her beloved son to a cross. It is awful to feel pain in your own body, but to stand nearby and see someone you love writhe in pain is agony of another kind.
In Isaiah 26:17-18, the prophet wrote about being in distress: “We were like a woman about to give birth, writhing and crying out in pain. When we are in Your presence, Lord, we, too, writhe in agony.” But just two verses later he says, “Yet we have this assurance: Those who belong to God will live; their bodies will rise again! Those who sleep in the earth will rise up and sing for joy!”
Whether your pain today rises from your physical body or from your heart, you still have cause for hope.
Advent 2012 – Day 23
“Joy to the World! The Lord is come!” Advent is a time for introspection and penitence, preparing believers for the excitement of Jesus’ arrival at Christmas. The contrast between the sorrow of our sin and joy of a Savior is like night turning into dawn.
Several years ago I had surgery to remove a parathyroid gland. The symptoms that led to the surgery involved rising calcium levels in my blood. I felt like two fingers were constantly pressing on my throat, creating a choking sensation. In addition, tremors shook my body from head to toe. The surgeon warned me that, because the parathyroid glands are right next to the vocal chords, the surgery could cause me to lose my voice.
I still remember waking up in the recovery area. The most amazing sensation was one of peace. After months of vigorous tremors, my body was at rest! And when the doctor later allowed me to try speaking, I learned that I still had a voice. I could talk! My “night” had turned to dawn. I added joy and praise to the mix.
Mary passed a long night in labor. Exhausted she lay back on the straw to rest. Her infant son lay safe in the manger. And Mary? As the sun rose the next morning, her heart overflowed with…joy.
Advent 2012 – Day 24
This is the last day of these Advent devotionals for 2012. For us, Advent has ended. The joy of Christmas is at hand.
When I first began organizing these thoughts and listing the emotions of Mary, my plan was to have them crescendo and end on the note of joy. But as God would have it, my plan changed. There was one more emotion Mary experienced.