“Yet I have learned that Advent is a season custom-made for experiencing how Christ meets us in the places that are most shadowed, most hopeless, most uncertain, most fearful. The trappings that have become associated with this season can make it difficult for us to see this. Yet beyond and beneath those trappings is the wondrous truth that lies at the heart of Advent and Christmas: that the Word became flesh and comes to us still as life, as light, as fierce love that does not abandon us in the darkest times. ” – Susan Richardson
Advent has been a shadowed season, filled with waiting and aching. Many moments have felt “most hopeless, most uncertain, most fearful.” Ryan has been in the hospital for 34 days so far, with the last 14 spent in the pediatric ICU. Some of these days have been the hardest that I can remember, watching our sweet boy suffer so intensely.
Over the past two weeks, I have often thought about the first days we had Ryan. He was so tiny and fragile. I wasn’t sure whether he could survive, and I so wanted him to live. Initially, I fed him 10 mls of formula every hour and prayed he would be able to tolerate it. And sometimes he did. We worked diligently to keep him warm and protected from germs as much as possible. Everything we knew to do for Ryan, we did; but there were so many elements that felt outside of our control. Daily, we celebrated weight gains, successful feedings, and wet and dirty diapers. And we prayed.
Many of the emotions I have felt during our time in the ICU have resembled those initial days. Since Wednesday, Ryan has, thankfully, made some dramatic improvements. I have found myself, once more, feeding my baby with a syringe, praying he will be able to digest formula. I have rejoiced over normal body processes, like breathing, eating, and peeing, that were impossible for Ryan only a few days ago. I have spent advent longing for my child to live.
Last night, I stood at the window of Ryan’s ICU room and watched brilliant colors fill the sky as the sun set over Los Angeles, my baby resting within my arms. When Ryan saw the Christmas lights shining from the frat houses below, he hoarsely whispered: “wow.” And for a moment, all was well. Now. Here. This.
For all of the ways that Christ has met me during this advent season, I am grateful. For all that Christmas is: repeat, repeat the sounding joy.