Advent Series: Can we listen?


The Third Sunday of Advent — the readings, the “pink candle,” Gaudete Sunday — reminds us of the promise of hope amidst what can feel like a long time waiting for the birth of Christ and joy in a world that does not always make us feel joyful.

My husband and I have been waiting for the past 38+ weeks for the birth of our baby. Every morning when I wake, I look in the mirror and marvel at how the baby grew overnight. As the child’s size has grown from that of a lentil to a watermelon in the womb, we anticipate and dream of the ways s/he will soon grow in the world. While we can only feel the baby’s moves and stirs from within, we look forward to the day when we can hold our child on the outside.

Statue of Mary, Stella Maris Chapel, St. John’s University

Pregnancy and this type of waiting can symbolize the gift of the Incarnation for all of us. While in pregnancy we can feel the movements of the child, we cannot truly see the child. We can notice a reflection in a woman’s shape, but we cannot embrace the baby’s hugs or hear it’s coos. We can only believe that those sights and smells are coming.

At this time in Advent, we are aware that there is an “already” and a “not yet” to the coming of our Lord. We believe in the presence of the Kingdom of God, though perhaps at times we can only feel the slightest of an interior movement. We feel joy around loved ones and still a longing in our hearts. We know that Jesus is “born” on Christmas day, but we do not hold the 6-pound newborn Christ.

And when it is most difficult to hope, we believe that we will one day see the glory of God, despite days that feel dark and desolate. For example, I am aware that while I trust our child will be healthy and whole, I am aware that not all pregnancies come to fruition. Most women around the world do not have access to adequate maternal health care. The holiday season can bring sharp reminders of pain and loss for many.

Our call in faith is to hope and believe, even when we cannot see exactly what we long for.

As Paul writes in his Letter to the Romans (8:22-24):

“We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen?”

We groan and we wait and we hope and we believe. And when don’t hear anything at all, let us remember the Gospel of today:

[John] said: “I am the voice of one crying out in the desert,
‘make straight the way of the Lord,'” as Isaiah the prophet said.”

“I baptize with water;
but there is one among you whom you do not recognize,
the one who is coming after me,
whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.”

As we prepare a nursery or a Christmas tree, let us all prepare for God. Christ is coming, in the form of a baby (crying out)! Let us prepare ourselves to recognize God in the most vulnerable and unassuming of places. Let us celebrate and rejoice. God is moving within us and around us, here and now. Can we listen?

Margaret Nuzzolese Conway works at Saint John’s School of Theology and Seminary as Associate Director of Development and Alumni Relations. She holds a Master’s degree in Theological Studies and a B.A. in Political Science, both from Boston College. She enjoys prayer, exercise, and faith and justice initiatives.

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