About nine months ago we celebrated the Annunciation when the angel Gabriel announced to Mary that she would conceive God’s son. It was at the moment of conception—beginning with just two cells—that Jesus became incarnate. I don’t think we often think much about Mary’s pregnancy during Advent. The New Spiritual Exercises by Louis Savary, which pulls from the incarnational spirituality of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, gives a detailed meditation on what’s going on inside Mary’s womb. Here’s an excerpt:
During the nine-month period of gestation in Mary’s womb, a series of changes transformed that single fertilized cell into a complex organism made of trillions of cells—to become the human being we know as Jesus of Nazareth.
During the first weeks in Mary’s womb, Jesus’ nervous system, brain, digestive system, ears, and arms begin to form. At twenty-one days, perhaps on her way to Elizabeth’s, his heart takes shape and begins to beat. It is the first beating of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
When I consider my friends who were pregnant this year, I think of the photos they posted on Facebook of their growing baby bumps. They shared about their joys, fears, and anticipation of the arrival of their children. Indeed, they must have wondered what would become of their children. Mary and Joseph were probably not too different than modern-day parents in their preparation (aside from Facebook posts).
Mary and Joseph’s child, the God-child, was coming into a simple family of two descended from a line of patriarchs with an imperfect past. And never in Jewish history was there a virgin birth. Miraculous ones in old age, yes, but not virgin. Mary had no Scriptures or history to turn to that could offer her comfort. Mary and Joseph’s Advent was a waiting likely filled with uncertainty and joy, requiring enormous trust in God. But aren’t all expecting parents in need of such a hopeful trust? Mary and Joseph not only offer a model to expecting parents, but to all of us expecting with great hope the coming of our new family member: the baby Jesus.