Unsurprisingly, I have recently been thinking about Advent. And pregnancy. And bowling.
At one point in our marriage, my husband and I belonged to a couples bowling league that met every Saturday night. My parents belonged to the same league.
It was our habit to bowl with the league, then go out for a late snack and a beer afterward.
I associate bowling with Advent and pregnancy because I was pregnant twice in Advent during the time we bowled on Saturday nights – no, make that three times.
Once, instead of celebrating Christmas with our fellow bowlers at the league’s annual Christmas party, I spent the night in the hospital, terrified, confused, and sobbing, having suffered a miscarriage that afternoon.
The following year, I was nine months pregnant with our middle son during Advent.
Bowling while nine months pregnant is not as easy as it might seem. Your center of gravity shifts. I always felt like I waddled up to the alley and heaved the ball in the general direction of the pins, hoping for the best.
Actually, now that I think about it, I was nine and a half months pregnant during Advent that year.
For reasons I never fully understood, it took me more than the typical 40 weeks to grow a baby. The child born closest to his due date (the oldest) still arrived over two weeks late.
The middle child was due December 16, born January 9. Yes. Three and a half weeks late. Our third son was due November 12, but clung to the walls of the womb well into Advent, over three weeks past his due date.
I am not sure if the two are actually related, but long pregnancies, for me at least, resulted in easy labor and deliveries.
America is currently facing a dark time.
The pandemic is raging. Records for deaths, hospitalizations, and new cases are being set almost every day. People have lost their jobs, businesses are closing, lines at food pantries are long. Hospitals are short-staffed and do not have enough protective equipment, families are separated at holiday time. Suffering is real and abundant.
More than a month after a contentious and divisive election, Americans are still arguing over the outcome. Voices are raised, weapons are brandished. There have even, incredibly, been death threats made to public officials.
Some people say our country is in its death throes.
But, I think, what if the pain, darkness, and loud voices we currently see and hear are not the messiness associated with death but with birth?
What if this anguish is ushering in an era not of contention and strife but of love and compassion?
Love is fierce, relentless. It is not easily defeated. Most people yearn for it.
Americans were asked an open-ended question in a recent poll: What would you like to see your representative do when Congress begins its session in January? The second most frequent answer (by one percentage point, behind listen to constituents) was to cooperate and compromise with members of the opposite party.
Approximately 70% of Americans self-identify as Christians. 2% identify as Jewish, 1% as Muslim, 1% as Buddhist, and 1% as Hindu.
That means a vast majority of Americans adhere to a religion that promotes, reveres, nurtures, and encourages love.
Now is our chance. Put up or shut up, so to say.
Agape in Greek means love, but not just any kind of love. It specifically delineates deliberate, purposeful, unselfish love, sweet and terrible.
That agape love is not meant solely for our friends, our families, our neighbors, or members of our political party.
In fact, the Bible explicitly says otherwise.
It is meant for our God, yes, but it must also be directed at our opponents, at those people with whom we disagree. Even with members of the opposite political party, as unbelievable as that may seem.
We Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, and Hindus are incredibly asked to love people who don’t love us. We are told in no uncertain terms to see no strangers.
Justice, love, grace, truth, and a place at the table are for everyone.
What if during this pregnant pause for Advent, we remembered what is said so succinctly in 1 John: “We love because he first loved us“?
What if we succumbed to the incessant, continuous, unabating tug of peace, empathy, and understanding?
What if this long torturous waiting period resulted in the surprisingly easy labor and the birth of Love?
It is up to each one of us to make it happen. We have waited long enough. Let us give birth to love in our hearts and in the world.
Love is long past its due date.
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