Little did I know how difficult it would be to have children. After years of trying, my husband and I sought a fertility specialist who helped us finally get pregnant. The sheer joy we felt when we welcomed our son Jake into the world! And again, with help from a fertility specialist and many prayers, we welcomed Samuel and Liam. It never felt like this ability came from me. I couldn’t bear children. Rather, our children were the product of God and prayer.
I am, like so many of our mothers of faith, barren. Like Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, even Hannah, Samuel’s mother, and finally Mary, all childless until God gave new life. I even named two of my sons after sons born of our barren mothers—Jacob and Samuel.
Our family grew while I was in seminary. In my senior year, I began to work on my profile and to research different churches. And then ... I found out I was pregnant! I said, “No, I can’t be pregnant. I’m infertile. It can’t be!” Normally welcome news, pregnancy and a child right when I was just about to begin ministry full-time filled me with anxiety and stress. Luckily, pregnancy lasts a long time. I used all those months learning acceptance.
And then, my beloved daughter Fiona was born. A precious daughter. She was a gift of love I hadn’t initially wanted. I didn’t even know I needed her. But I did. And I do. She has filled my life with even more love.
Sometimes surprising and unlooked for love is the best gift of all. We remember that first Christmas a couple thousand years ago. We didn’t know we needed that little baby in the manger. Jesus came into our world unexpected and unlooked for. As John wrote, “The true light was coming into the world, but the world did not recognize him, and his own didn’t receive him.” (John 1:10 -11)
“The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only son.” (John 1:14) I’ve always imagined God’s glory looks like love. The amazing love of our savior who was willing to give his own life in order for us to know God’s amazing love.
One of our residents moved into our retirement community rather reluctantly, grieving the loss of her home. She wasn’t religious, although she’d gone to church a bit as a young adult. When we first met, she said to me, “I’m not sure God would really want me.” Yet, over the next year, she discovered God’s gift of love for her personally. She enthusiastically learned more about God through weekly catechism classes and officially joined the Catholic church when she was 85. She didn’t expect the loving gift of a savior born in a manger. She didn’t expect her own love for God to grow in her heart. But it did.
Sometimes the gift of love is unexpected, even unwanted, like the birth of Jesus Christ. Even 2000 years later, we still need the gift of a baby wrapped in love. The truth is, sometimes the greatest gifts are the ones we didn’t see coming. (Guideposts, December/January 2020, “Our Christmas Puppy.”)
My prayer for each one of us this Advent season is to be surprised anew at the gift of God’s love.