Awaiting New Life
Welcoming our child brought us the meaning of Advent
by Sébastien Lacroix
On Jan. 31, my wife and I learned that we were going to have a child. It was a significant date for us since it was the feast of St. John Bosco, the priest and teacher of youth and founder of the Salesians, for whom we have a particularly strong devotion. Thus began the period of waiting.
In English, the expression “expectant mother” conveys the experience well: a mother in waiting. That is not to say that we were sitting around doing nothing. I say “we” because it is easier to experience this period of waiting together, father and mother. At times, we discovered the wait to be long, difficult and even painful. Nausea, anxiety about knowing whether the baby was healthy and well-positioned, and questions about the future — all of these aspects of the pregnancy were part of our waiting.
Sébastien Lacroix and his wife with their newborn.
On Oct. 1, the feast of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, the object of our waiting, our daughter Giulia, made her appearance. Although we prepared ourselves very carefully for her arrival, nothing happened as we imagined it would. First, everything happened so quickly. I was at work when, in the middle of the day, my wife called to tell me that she was in labor. The sudden intensity of the contractions was different from what we had expected. When the midwife arrived at our house at around 3 p.m., she told us that we had to go to the hospital right away. It was very close. Once we got to the hospital, it was time to push; it was too late for an epidural. Scarcely two hours later, we were holding our first child in our arms.
Having experienced these months of waiting, the season of Advent suddenly seems more meaningful to us. The Church offers four Sundays of Advent to prepare ourselves for the great feast day of Christmas: the birth of Emmanuel, God with us. Liturgical time mirrors both the time we experience on earth and the time of God. As expectant parents, we had to prepare ourselves to welcome a new life, a little person who we knew would upset out schedules, our habits, our whole lives. It is the same with God’s gift. He asks that we prepare our hearts and that we change our habits and our lives to welcome his gift of eternal life.
Nine months before she gave birth to her holy son, it is unlikely that Mary was worried about traveling by donkey and looking for a place to give birth. Neither she nor Joseph thought they would find themselves in a stable in Bethlehem, and the shepherds did not expect to be greeted by a multitude of angels coming to hail the Christ Child. Likewise, Joseph did not anticipate that he would have to flee to Egypt with his wife and child.
What is certain is that Mary and Joseph were forced to face the unexpected. The experience of the months leading up to the birth of our first child has allowed me to better understand what that means. Welcoming a child means that we must accept the fact that our lives will be unsettled. The arrival of Jesus did just that: It disrupted the established order, and it continues to disrupt wherever there is injustice and hatred. Each Christmas invites us to be disrupted by a God who wants to be close to us, a God for whom the gift of life is one of the greatest proofs of his love.
SÉBASTIEN LACROIX is a producer for Salt + Light Catholic Television in Toronto.
(This article appeared originally in the December 2010 issue of Columbia, the magazine of the Knights of Columbus. Photo by Joshua Lanzarini.)