Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on December 4, 2018.
The season of Advent usually begins with a perception of being a magical, jovial, and anticipatory time of the birth of Jesus. My Advent began with an anticipation. Yet it lacked marvel and apparent joy. God encountered me in an incarnational way this Advent season. I juggled the infectious side effects of projectile vomit and diaper explosions. Both of my sons came down with the stomach flu over the weekend.
Parenting Sucks (Sometimes)
Nothing tests a parent’s patience, will-power or love of their children quite like a continual cleaning of bodily fluids. On top of the symptoms of the stomach flu, my youngest son is also recovering from an adenoidectomy (see below diagram if you never heard of that organ before–as I never did prior to this surgery!) Because the flesh is healing behind his nasal cavity, my two year old’s breath smelled like death since the surgery. The doctors estimate three weeks before his rotting-breath odor stops! What a start to the New Liturgical year!
Prepare for Christ not the Perfect Season
Too often society places pressure for the perfect “holiday” season: all the gifts must be precisely wrapped and laden under the Christmas tree in a tidy order, the Christmas meal has to be cooked to the exact temperature and paired with the appropriate side dishes depending on the main dish, and family members need to behave–especially your “estranged/weird” uncle [or aunt or other unique relative you may have]. Honestly, I fall into this fallacy almost every year myself.
This year was no different.
I hoped to be able to take my entire family to Mass to celebrate the First Sunday of Advent. Sadly, this didn’t happen. Because of my priority as a parent, I had to miss this Mass to care for my ailing family.
Advent— A Time to Prepare for Jesus
After taking some time to reflect on the apparent failures of the weekends, I realized maybe God was preparing me for something greater—Advent really is all about preparation for the coming of Christ. Revisiting the birth narratives in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, showed me the arrival of Jesus did not occur in the ideal standards, at least according to the world’s standards.
Luke 2:7 details how Mary and Joseph arrived in Bethlehem “too late” and the innkeeper denied them a room at the inn. Mary had to give birth to Jesus in a humble way—in a simple stable. American novelist Flannery O’Connor wrote the following about the Incarnation,
Man’s maker was made man that He, Ruler of the stars, might nurse at His mother’s breast; that the Bread might hunger, the Fountain thirst, the Light sleep, the Way be tired on its journey; that Truth might be accused of false witnesses, the Teacher be beaten with whips, the Foundation be suspended on wood; that Strength might grow weak; that the Healer might be wounded; that Life might die.
Advent is Incarnational
By becoming a human Jesus was able to encounter the entirely of the human condition save for sin. In my children’s pain, suffering, tiredness, and thirstiness this past weekend, Christ was with them in a unique way as he already suffering all those things during his 33 years on Earth.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraph 463, “Belief in the true Incarnation of the Son of God is the distinctive sign of Christian faith: “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God.” The season of Advent is not about preparing for the “perfect” Christmas where Mary and Joseph get a room at the inn. Advent prepares us for the birth of Jesus Christ. His birth took place in the messiness of the stable. And his Passion and Death took place on the messiness of the Cross.
Not everything in my life will be neatly fit in my control. But after this incarnational and infectious start to Advent, God grace me with the gift of perspective and opportunity in serving my children as Christ served the world.