by Kirsten Mebust
All who heard (Zechariah and Elizabeth) pondered them and said, ‘What then will this child become?’ Luke 1:66
This Advent I am waiting for the Baby. Specifically the baby. I’m immune to all sermons that skip over the baby. Birth is the point.
We are becoming grandparents. We’re old, as the culture goes, for first-time grandparents. And we are far away from this child, not by American standards, but according to the human history of extended families. The baby will be born in a mild and dry place, California, while we scrape ice off the car, in Minnesota. In January.
So I have spent this Advent season waiting. Waiting for our daughter to share a last Thanksgiving with us as the “baby.” Waiting for the telephone reports on her health and the development of her offspring—our offspring. Remembering my pregnancies. Pulled back from almost 30 years of thinking about other things to thinking about the most elemental of human creative activities. Pulled back into wondering.
What will this child be like? Gifted with culture from four continents, born early in a mostly veiled century, riding the wave of global climate change, what will she experience? How will she know herself? What will be her favorite ways of playing? Will she be overwhelmed by the beauty of her home planet? Will she feel welcome in desert or forest? (What will she think of snow, if at all?) Will she fight for its life? Will the world recognize her full humanity? Will she be valued and granted dignity for more than her labor? How will she discover love and desire? Where will she live? What gifts will she contribute to the world through her love, intelligence, compassion? Will she grow old and wise and a little foolish?
This baby shares a bloodstream right now with her mother, making them both intimate and unfamiliar to one another. Pregnancy is a paradox of unity and difference; birth is a turning inside-out of a relationship that is at once already far along in creative process, making it altogether new. Pregnancy is a promise not yet fulfilled, and yet everything is already changed by it. Birth is both a revelation and new beginning of wonder. And in preparation for wonder, we wait but we act. We pay attention to other children. We repent of our lack of care for the planet. We search for and make gifts, often material gifts like baby swings. We cry out against violence. We hope for the best.
Advent focuses on the waiting of a whole people for a Savior, of a pregnant mother for her prophesied child, of people swamped in violence grasping for a candle of hope. In all the Advent stories I’ve heard, I don’t remember the grandparents. But they must have been there, too. Worrying, perhaps, about the health of their daughter, who carries a whole world in her womb. Making as level and safe as they can the way home. Perhaps remembering that there are no alien grandchildren, only those who have been called specifically forth from this Earth, from our human family. And wondering: Who will this baby become?