Advent is a season of waiting: we commemorate the period in which God’s people waited for the arrival of the Messiah, while we as the church today wait for His return. This year- since my husband accepted a position in Dublin, Ireland- I’ve been learning a lot about waiting. As I write this, Friday is a special day marked on my calendar app: that’s when he’ll be back to visit for a week. As I wait, it occurs to me that God gave Mary a unique gift: the gift of a date. First century medicine being what it was, Mary probably didn’t know an exact “due date”, but she would have known how long a typical pregnancy lasted. She could count down the days (roughly) to when Messiah would arrive. Of course, Mary wouldn’t have known what came next; how Jesus would grow and the shape his ministry would take. However, while everyone else was in the dark, she could begin counting down. How exciting!
This, of course, contrasts with the Church’s situation today. Jesus promises he is coming “quickly”, but unfortunately he doesn’t give us a date to mark on the calendar. Perhaps a modern analogy might be that he has booked his return flight but didn’t forward the itinerary to us. Until then, vs. 17 tells us, we as the Church should wait for him as a bride awaits her beloved (an analogy that strikes close to home to me). However, I have a hard time practicing this- how can I maintain this enthusiasm without a day to count down to? (Goodness knows I’d give my husband a hard time if he didn’t tell me when he was coming back!)
Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, Mary provides an example for us to follow. Even though she, uniquely, could count down, that’s not the focus of her praise. Instead, she’s excited about what God is going to do, even though she doesn’t know what form that will take. Instead, she celebrates God’s promises of what he will do when he comes. We, too, have such promises that we can celebrate. Like Mary, we don’t know concretely how God will fulfill them when he comes, but we have plenty to hope for, even without a day to count down to.