During Advent, we wait for Christmas in the glow of burning candles: flames that stretch up into the darkness, as if in passionate plea. Our spirits burn, too, for we long for fresh manifestations of Christmas — tiny bursts of hope, swaddled in vulnerability and gentleness. Our waiting becomes almost an ache, a prayerful yearning for goodness and compassion to be reborn into our world of injustice, division, and fear.
We wait like Mary in her pregnancy, holding candles in the darkness. We wait together in our homes, our churches, our communities. This candle-bearing community — the Beloved Community — bears witness to a God who is for us and with us and in our very personal yearnings for peace and wholeness.
In Letters to a Young Poet, we are offered a sense of this great yearning. On December 23, 1903, Rainer Maria Rilke writes to his young poet friend, Mr. Kappus:
“What is keeping you from hurling his birth into evolving times and from living your life as though it were one painful beautiful day in the history of a great pregnancy? Don’t you see that everything that happens becomes a beginning again and again?”
We understand well this feeling of “a great pregnancy” over a hundred years after this letter was written; for we, like Rilke, live in pregnant times, anxious times, when we must let go of fear and embrace fresh incarnations of creative love in the world. Christmas is always with us, that is, if we believe in the wondrous possibilities hurling themselves toward us in an evolving universe of freshness, where “everything that happens becomes a beginning again and again.”
Rilke would insist that we must never give in to fear or apathy during the period of waiting. Rather, we must live with hope, as though this is but “one painful beautiful day in the history of a great pregnancy.”
Yes, Advent is a time for waiting, but not passively so, as if holed up in the waiting room of a maternity ward, tapping our feet impatiently. We are in the birthing room itself, the very midwives of this painful, beautiful new life. As partners with the divine, we usher in the Christ child together, even as we sing songs of hope, peace, joy, and love.
Meister Eckhart said, “God is always waiting to be born.” And so it is. The magic of Christmas is the magic of our rebirthing God into the world for the sake of peace and goodwill to all creation. Divine birth is both painful and beautiful, as all births are. But this is our part in the “great pregnancy” of Christmas: to be midwives of hope — again and again.