Miscarriage in Advent — Thandiwe Dale-Ferguson, USA

How easy it is to get caught up in the busy-ness, the doing, the decorating, the cooking, the sending, the buying, the eating of Christmas. Now don’t get me wrong, I love each of these parts of Christmas – setting up the Christmas tree and hanging decorations, the home-made Christmas cookies and egg nog, writing and mailing Christmas cards, searching out gifts that I hope will be just right. I love and cherish each of these traditions.

But (and there is a but) these traditions and practices take time and, if I am not careful, I let these activities take over. I feel anxious about finding the perfect gift, sending all the cards out in time, ensuring I have enough cookies to give all my neighbors, or wanting my home to look just right. Instead of making time and space in my life to welcome Christ’s love and presence, I fill my time, I fill my home, I fill my thoughts, leaving no space empty. Frantically trying to get everything done, I forget the one thing that is most important – listening for God’s presence in my heart, in my life and in this world.

This year, a personal loss has brought me up short, and other things have fallen away. My husband and I, after two weeks of excitement, joy and anticipation, had a miscarriage. I, just shy of seven weeks pregnant, had known about the pregnancy for two weeks, and now, already, it was ending.

Advent, I found, is a wonderful time to be pregnant and a terrible time to have a miscarriage – all the talk of conception, pregnancy, anticipation and birth serve as constant reminders of this so-intimate loss. Being a pastor, I am learning, further complicates things, for I have a particular role in sharing words about conception and birth, speaking messages of hope and anticipation, proclaiming the joy and delight of the good news of Jesus’ birth. Loss is always painful, and this loss has been particularly painful for me this Advent season.

And yet, in this loss I have received such a great gift – in grief, I have had to step back from my to-do lists and make room. I have had to make room for sadness and mourning, for unanticipated doctor’s appointments, for difficult phone calls with family and friends, for physical discomfort and fatigue, for ritual and for tears. And in that room, God has crept in, sometimes slowly and quietly speaking to me through calendar pictures of God’s wonderful and majestic creation decorating the lab where I had blood work done. In that room, I found God already waiting, in the steadfastness of my husband’s patient love and care. In this room that grief has opened, God is present and known through all the love and support that my husband and I have received – from notes of love and support, prayers for comfort and healing, rituals of water, light and oil, gifts large and small.

The truth is that God has always been there, waiting simply for me to make room, for me to listen, for me to say “Here I am.”

This morning, driving to work and listening to Colorado Public Radio, as I often do, I catch Clare Dunn singing “O Holy Night,” one of my favorite Christmas carols. Today, I sing along, and I also listen:

O holy night, the stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Saviour’s birth;
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
‘Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn;

Fall on your knees, Oh hear the angel voices!
O night divine! O night when Christ was born.
O night, O holy night, O night divine.

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is Love and His gospel is Peace;
Chains shall he break, for the slave is our brother,
And in his name all oppression shall cease,
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful Chorus raise we;
Let all within us praise his Holy name!

Fall on your knees, Oh hear the angel voices!
O night divine! O night when Christ was born.
O night, O holy night, O night divine.

As I listen, I think about what it means for the soul to feel its worth and imagine our world with each of us knowing more deeply our own value and worth. Our value and worth exist whether we rejoice or mourn. God is present with us, loving us beyond our wildest imagining all the time.

And of course, knowing our own value and worth deeply and truly, we cannot help but know the value and worth of others. When our soul feels its worth, we learn to love one another – and when this happens, chains shall be broken, our relatedness shall be known, and oppression shall cease.

This Advent season, in grief and gratitude, I find myself falling on my knees in need of God’s mercy and comfort and also in total awe and reverence for the One who has been waiting for me to make room.

I hope and pray that this Christmas, your soul may know its worth, that whether in joy or sorrow, you may know God’s loving presence in your life, and that together, we may continue to work for the end of all oppression. Thanks be to God and may all within us praise God’s Holy name! Amen.