advent, noun.

the arrival of a notable thing, person, or event.


gest-, root.

comes from Latin, meaning “carry, bear.” This meaning is found in such words as: congestion, digest, gestation, gesticulate, gesture, ingest, suggest.

I’m a fan of anticipation, and the way it can set a person up for gratitude and, let’s face it, an increased sparkle when the waited-for moment arrives. So a slow build into gift-getting—hey, including the gift of Christ!—and the delights thereof has been part of my Advent for a very long time. I’m all about the arrival of the note-able, the note-worthy, the things we pay attention to, exclaim over, write down.

But Advent is also about Mary’s time gestating Jesus. Luke’s stories of the two unexpected conceptions and the unexpected mothers anchor our preparations for the Christ’s birth. Before arrival comes the carrying and bearing. I know about this process; I have two daughters, born 15 months apart. Two summers ‘carrying and bearing,’ two separate arrivals. Much celebration! then and each anniversary thereafter…

and at the same time I do not forget that last month. Both last-months.

When I was six months along with my first, a similarly-pregnant neighbor moved in next door. It was April; she was due in May. “I bet you’re hoping to get the baby’s room ready in time!” I commiserated. “I don’t care. I just want the baby to get here,” she wearily replied. I was startled. Yet in July, when I was down to one more month, I knew exactly how my neighbor had felt.

Now each year when I reach Advent, I remember: the weariness, the irritation. The sense that we have been carrying this weight for a really long time. The sense that sure, we have endured, and still there’s unknown more left to endure. Maybe this arrival will be all we’d hoped for, but it hasn’t happened yet, and what if it’s not?

At the same time this waiting, this gestation, is not just ours. We Christians use the church calendar to also remind ourselves of what God (in all three persons) is continually doing. In Advent, we remind ourselves of what God carried in the time before Christ drew human breath—the sadness and estrangement that God, loving us, had to bear. Christ is God’s gest-ure: the act or process of carrying or bearing—Christ is when, in Peterson’s homely phrase, God “became flesh and blood and moved into the neighborhood” (John 1:14, The Message), to bear with us and eventually bear for us.

Advent’s days get shorter and darker; as we live our lives it can be easy to see our days grow shorter and darker as well. Let us not forget, as we carry on through these days, that at the end of Advent arrives a notable Light. “[T]he Lord will arise upon you, / and his glory will appear over you. / Nations shall come to your light, / and kings to the brightness of your dawn” (Isaiah 60:2b-3). Even as we wait and bear up, we can remember that Christ will sparkle, and is sparkling, through us.

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