I spent a good part of the day yesterday decorating for Christmas. My wife and I were married just over two weeks ago, and this is our first Christmas living together. We put up the tree, wrapped the lights around it, and then broke open a box filled with Christmas ornaments from her childhood.
One caught my attention. It had a picture of her as an infant and said, “Baby’s First Christmas, 1983.” After I looked at it for a minute, I realized something wasn’t right.
“Honey, 1983 wasn’t your first Christmas. You were born in October of 1982. Why does it say 1983?”
And then I remembered. My wife was born three months premature. She weighed slightly over two pounds at birth, and slipped down to under two pounds soon after that. Baptized at the hospital soon after birth, she wasn’t expected to survive, and she spent her first few months in a hospital incubator. She was released from the hospital right before Christmas, but was still so fragile that celebrations had to take a back seat that year.
By the next year she was strong, and healthy, and growing. And Christmas was a little different that year. Someone took the picture of her that is now on our tree, and put it in a frame that said “Baby’s First Christmas.” Is it technically right? No. But the reality was that it was the first Christmas that her family could breathe a sigh of relief, know that she was going to be okay, and rejoice. It was the first year that they had time to buy ornaments and take festive pictures to put inside of them.
When I look at the ornament, I think of my wife on her actual first Christmas: tiny, fragile, sick, and struggling to live. But I also think about the strength that must have been inside that little body, and the hope that she gave people against all the odds. In a way, that’s a lot like our Advent journey. We come aware of our weakness, and of the fragility of the world, and yet we come looking for the promise of new life.
That’s what hope is all about. It proves the doctors who say “there’s no chance” wrong. And it transforms a broken world that some days we just want to give up on into a new creation. I believe in hope because I know someone whose life proves the hope is not in vain. And I believe in the journey of Advent because I know that, like Christmas, joy can eventually come out of even the most somber beginnings.
This reflection is part of Huffington Post Religion’s Advent live blog. More reflections can be found here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/01/advent-2012-a-season-of-waiting-before-christmas-photos_n_2221918.html#27_advent-reflection-day-2-fragility-and-the-promise-of-new-life