As any mother knows, there is a time in the pregnancy when you are weary of the wait. Your body needs navigational lights to maneuver around furniture, your ankles start swelling, and the body parts (feet and elbows, perhaps even the head) of the darling unborn child are jamming themselves into uncomfortable places between ribs or on top of a bladder. The once glowing face starts looking pale, as broken nights of sleep pile up on one another.

I imagine that Mary's pregnancy was not much different. Besides the physical discomfort, she had the additional burden of the suspicious and gossip-producing manner in which her pregnancy began. I wonder if the Nazareth community ever bought the story of the angel, or if she and Joseph moved through their days in a pesky buzz of snide comments.

The Epistle reading from yesterday's lectionary included this phrase: "to God who is able to strengthen you." Did Mary feel she was on the edge of her endurance as she rode her way into Bethlehem, jostling amongst the family and relatives attempting to deal with the influx of out-of-town visitors? It is true that the power of God came upon her to bring about the conception of the Godchild, and yet it was the ongoing power of God that she would need from that day forward: physical stamina, emotional strength, determination of will to stand firm in her commitment to be the Lord's "handmaiden."

"Breath of heaven, hold me together, be forever near me," begins the familiar song by Amy Grant. And this is our prayer when we are stretched to the point of thinness, nerves raw, emotions spent, and still the pain of childbirth to endure. We pray for grace while we continue to ask: Will the waiting ever end? Will the end be worth the wait?

The mother knows the answer to this question. Pushed to the edge, she is grateful for the pain of contractions signaling an end to the period of gestation. Anything is better than this infernal heaviness, awkwardness, sleeplessness. She is ready, as was Mary, as are many of us. As we move into this last week of Advent, perhaps we find ourselves praying, as Mary must have, for the strength to make it past the transition pains, through the pushing, and on to the birth. For we believe, as did the mother of God's Christ, that the promise is worth the wait.

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