Look Forward

By Rev. Ruth Fitzgerald  •  December 16, 2021

When I entered seminary as a 45-year-old adult, I learned a new phrase: “Already, and not yet.” There are many ways that seminarians parse this phrase, but for me, it is most useful and understandable during Advent. We already know the rest of the story of God’s message of salvation and hope in Jesus Christ, but we have not yet realized it. In this way, I can make sense of the renewed anticipation each year as we light the Advent candles and wait, impatiently, for Christmas. In the “not yet” I can yearn for something new, I can move ahead, I can look forward.

Thirty-five years ago, I was looking ahead every day. I was pregnant! And my due date was December 29. All year people commented and then prognosticated that I could surely have a Christmas baby. By December I was counting the days until my husband and I would meet our first child. On the morning of Christmas Eve I experienced a bump in the road and after an anxious night in the hospital—I did have a Christmas baby.

This year, that Christmas baby is pregnant! Oh my, we are all looking ahead once again. We already know that pregnancy is unpredictable, and we do not know the exact timing of this (or any) baby; sometime in February is the hope.

The days are pregnant, too, with love and expectation. With joy and anxiety. With the mundane details of work and life and with the busyness of adjusting a home for another person.

During Advent it is easy, oh so easy, to get pulled into busyness, distracted into crafting exactly the memories that cement us to our past. It is easy to focus on the already—the lists of things required for the “perfect” holiday. But the not-yet waits ahead of us. The promise of God’s realm for which the world waits together.

I’ve been reading Advent devotions from All Creation Waits: The Advent Mystery of New Beginnings (Gayle Boss). Daily reflections on creatures of nature with illustrations by David G. Klein. Moving away from the more typical seasonal reflections on light or love or new life has been a challenge for me. But there is wisdom in Boss’ words and new beginnings in challenge. There is proclamation that all creation waits for restoration in the Christ.

The not-yet looms for each of these animals through a winter season. The reading for December 4 features the black bear. The huge female animal has found and customized her den for the winter. She has eaten her fill of berries and nuts, plants and insects. And she sleeps, body slowed to conserve warmth and life. Already she is settled in for a long stretch. But that’s not all. She is not yet aware that new life grows within her. Cubs. I imagine the bear in her winter womb, her body held warm and safe and the babies within her womb, doubly protected for what lies ahead. Already they are growing, but they are not yet born.

We look ahead too, for survival, hope, spring, the realm of God come to live among us. Distracted by routine, limited by bad weather, weighing pandemic risks, suffering the long dark nights, we are held, too, by this hope of things to come. And we rest in Emmanuel—God-with-us—already and not yet. Alleluia.

About the Author

Rev. Ruth Fitzgerald

Rev. Ruth Fitzgerald served in parish ministry for nine years before being called into conference ministry as Area Minister for the Grand West Association in Michigan. She has served on the community board for Pilgrim Manor, a United Church Homes community in Grand Rapids. Ruth has two grown children and one precious grandson. Hiking, knitting, and reading fill her “spare” time.

View all articles by Rev. Ruth Fitzgerald