Our first son was born in June of 2008. I ended up leaving work about a week early, starting my maternity leave early, to spend some time at home, nesting, getting the baby room ready and just being generally nervous about everything. One of the last few days before I went into labour, I found myself sitting on our living room couch enjoying the sun coming in the front window. I closed my eyes, laid my hands on my belly and just took a few minutes to breathe. I found myself praying, “God, give me the strength to get through this, to be a good Mom, to do this whole baby thing right.” While I sat there quietly for a few moments after praying, I remember feeling a deep sense of peace wash over me. My son was still in my belly, the sun was warm on my skin, and the house was quiet. It was as though God had taken that moment to say “It’s not strength you need, it’s peace.” Then the baby started doing acrobatics again and the moment was over. That sense of peace from that calm, quiet moment stays with me though.
I have done a lot of research in preparation for writing these devotionals, and I’ll admit I was a little frustrated at the fact that there’s really not a whole lot we know about Mary. The gospels pretty much skip straight from the Annunciation: Gabriel saying, “Mary, you’re going to have a baby” and Mary responding with, “Let’s do this” to the birth, “Hey Joseph, it’s baby time!” (Obviously Mary is a very modern woman in my mind). Many of the historical books I have read say that Mary was either a peasant farm girl, spending her days shepherding sheep and goats, a midwife’s assistant, or a child raised in the temple. Not much, if anything is said about the early days of her relationship and marriage to Joseph, or of her time while she was pregnant with Jesus.
We have very little background story. Perhaps if Mary had had more problems during the pregnancy, we would have some more information. If Joseph had made a big deal out of the pregnancy, we might have a bigger background story. Maybe Mary had seen so many different pregnancies as a midwife’s assistant, or helped birth so many lambs and kids from the farm animals, that pregnancy was old-hat to her already. Or maybe, just maybe, God instilled Mary with a deep sense of peace: peace that what she was doing was God’s plan, that who she was carrying was God’s son, and that by remaining faithful and steady, her whole pregnancy would go just the way that God had intended. There would certainly be some peace to be found in that. Perhaps Joseph and Mary found peace in each other’s faithful obedience to God.
Joseph’s peaceful acceptance of this amazing situation is hardly even noted in the scripture, but in Matthew 1:20b-24 we read:
…An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.
Finding peaceful moments during the Advent season can be difficult. We cram our schedules so full of activities, parties, family gatherings, and church events that we can sometimes forget to stop and take a moment to sit in wonder at the awesome gift that God is giving in his son, Jesus. During this time of Peace, we should try to practice Still Anticipation. Let the peace of God wash over you, calm your heart and open your soul to Him, while but still being aware that something amazing and wonderful is about to happen. I imagine Mary sitting as I sat: still, quiet, hands resting on her belly. Her heart must have been filled with anticipation for the baby that she was carrying. What kind of child would he be? What would he do in his life? He had so much resting on his shoulders already—Immanuel, Jesus, God with us. Yet I believe that in the still and quiet of God’s presence, Mary felt both a sense of peace and a knowledge that something incredible was happening. Peace, Advent: Still Anticipation.
What is the most peaceful place you have ever been? Do you carry that sense of peace with you to draw on at other times in your life when you may need it?
What do you think Mary and Joseph were going through during her pregnancy? Do you think they found peace in their faith that God was leading them to do what he had called them to do?
How can we find God’s Peace during the busy season of Advent?
God of Peace,
We thank you for giving us your calm and soothing presence. In the midst of our busy lives this Advent season help us to find time to spend in still anticipation of the birth of our Saviour.