I always love Christmas. My wonder for the season thrills at the thought of twinkle lights, evergreen wreaths, hot cocoa, and the beauty of the nativity story. But December 2013 was particularly special—I was expecting my second baby, a girl. Her due date? Christmas Eve.
I imagined a Hallmark ending to a Christmas pregnancy. I thought of all the joy and delight of a baby at Christmas and even played around with naming her Eve. No Advent calendar could count down the days quickly enough to when I would hold my new little one. But soon, my sweet delight turned to agonized groans. My health declined as the pregnancy progressed. Bright hospital lights and shrill beeps and IV bags buried my sugar plum daydreams.
Advent Didn’t Turn Out as I Expected
My Christmas enthusiasm disappeared as if I had stored it in boxes among ornaments and tree lights. My worry wrapped around my hopes like a tightly wound ribbon I struggled to open. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. I tried to pray away my incessant morning sickness—the burning in my nostrils, aching sides, and lack of appetite. More than anything, I wondered where the Lord was in this painful process.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way, I repeated, struggling to remember how God showcases his love to people who felt the same way I did. I wandered through the spiritual deserts of doubt and hopelessness. Worry and doubt are awful companions. They take you along when all you want to do is let go and crawl toward hope. Where did my enthusiasm for the marvelous Christmas season go?
Advent is About Waiting
Advent turned into a season of waiting, which is exactly what Advent is about—anticipation. I deeply desired to feel better and hold my little girl safely in my arms. The psalmist of Psalm 69 so eloquently illustrated my condition—my eyes grew “dim with waiting for my God” (v. 3). My body was physically exhausted and my soul was worn down. I pleaded every day to take my anguish away. The questioning and anxiety pushed me to look up instead of in.
This season of anticipation led me to long for a greater hope than my usual consumeristic Christmas ideals. While the romance of Christmas delight inspired me, I realized there was a greater beauty to this season, that the picture-perfect snowy landscapes couldn’t meet the deserts of my weariness. The reality of Christmas is far more than the joy, laughter, and happiness of the season. The Christmas season begs us to realize we need a God who is near and to rejoice in the good news that he came to rescue us in the middle of exhaustion. My enthusiasm for Christmas traditions needed to refocus on my Savior.
Developing Enthusiasm for the Nearness of Christ
Years later, I learned the etymology of the word enthusiasm. It comes from the Greek word enthousiasmos, meaning “divinely inspired by God.” It was originally used to describe religious zeal negatively but later came to mean intense excitement. This mirrored the early days of my pregnancy. My enthusiasm for the good news of my baby captivated my thoughts, but it wasn’t enough to captivate my hope. I was offered a greater gift in the middle of my trial and suffering.
As my enthusiasm grew for the Lord's nearness in this season, I discovered that I had been directing my enthusiasm to something beautiful that wasn’t eternal. But now, instead of focusing on the happy endings the world was selling me, I had the opportunity to be enthusiastic about the God who cares and gives “according to [his] abundant mercy” (Ps. 69:16).
The Greatest Advent Gift
I sought joy in my expectations, but they brought anxiety. My idea of a picture-perfect pregnancy where I could delight in nesting, Christmas decorating, and shopping were not answers to my anguish. I started letting go of the heavy burden of expectation. Instead, I found an opportunity to be near the Lord despite my condition.
In his lovingkindness, the Lord responded to my anguish by reminding me that he went through it himself—and with enthusiasm for me. The good news of Christmas is that he came to bear the wounds and grief of the human condition (Isa. 53:5). This news brought me a new understanding of delight and joy for his gospel.
Looking Forward to Future Advent Seasons
My daughter was born a week early, and she and I were both healthy in the end. On Christmas morning, I gazed into her sleepy eyes and held her petite frame. With tears, I praised God for such a wonderful gift. I wondered if Mary also felt that enthusiasm amid suffering is the true joy.
My soul abounded in joyful enthusiasm for my God. I repeated the refrain from the psalmist in Psalm 69:34–36: “Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and everything that moves in them. For God will save Zion and build up the cities of Judah, and people shall dwell there and possess it; the offspring of his servants shall inherit it, and those who love his name shall dwell in it.” I couldn’t wait to tell my precious daughter of the beauty of God’s gift to us—Christ coming to save us.
Meet the Author
Neidy (pronounced nay-dee) Hess is a Latina creative with a love of Jesus, Georgia peaches, sweet tea, and cold brew coffee. She lives in Nebraska with her three incredible niños and firefighter paramedic husband. Her family is part of a multiethnic church plant that has a heart for diversity. She works for a creative online community called Exhale as the content manager and as a copywriter.