Magazine article The Christian Century

Expecting

Magazine article The Christian Century

Expecting

Article excerpt

Mary said, "Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word" [Luke 1:38].

THE FEELINGS of a teenaged mother are described by Joyce Maynard in her novel Baby Love:

Wanda is thinking about last winter, when she was pregnant. Expecting, is how Mrs. Ramsay used to put it. Back when it seemed exciting to step on the scale and find out she'd gained another two pounds. Of course, she loves Melissa more than anything in the world and she wouldn't trade her for any other baby or even change the little red birthmark on her forehead. Of course having a real baby you can cuddle and wash and put outfits on is better than just imagining. But back in January it was like carrying around this fancy package, looking at it every day, wondering what's inside. As long as you don't open it you can always pretend it might be a diamond ring or the keys to a moped or something. Once you open it, there will always be a million things that won't be inside, even if what's there is what you wanted the most. You've got it. You just aren't expecting anymore, that's all.

The mainspring of our culture's Christmas celebration is this sense of expectation. Enormous energies are expended, all pointing toward the climactic moment, Christmas morning, when presents are opened and, at least in theory, joy explodes. By four o'clock on Christmas afternoon it's all over, and we experience what Charles Schultz in "Peanuts" has dubbed the "post-Christmas letdown."

Much of the burden of this annual frenzy falls on women. Flogged ever onward by women's magazines to ereate the "merriest Christmas ever," exhausted mothers shuttle frantically from kitchen to shopping mall to post office to school, all on top of the normal load of daily work, chores and concerns. In churchgoing families, Mommy has an even heavier agenda--pageant and choir rehearsals, extra liturgical events, more and more cookies to bake--and an extra spiritual load as well: to "put Christ back into Christmas," to ensure that Christmas is not only the perfect family holiday but the perfect spiritual experience as well.

I find myself wondering what Mary expected when the angel told her she was expecting. Her song of praise, the Magnificat, envisions a whole new world of God's making, in which God's humble servant is noticed, chosen, lifted up and given a great task to do with joy; where the mighty are put down from their seats, the meek exalted and the hungry fed--a world in which God's promises are fulfilled in the sight of all. …

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