For me, today’s word–child–symbolizes in ways poignant or tragic, depending on my mood, all the things I don’t have. Turning 28 was more traumatic to me than 50 or even 60 because at that time, 28 was the upper age limit for acceptance into medical school, and I was working at Kmart with no hopes of achieving my lifelong dream; 28 was also the age at which my mother gave birth to me, her first child, and I had married a man with a vasectomy, relinquishing all hope of achieving the more precious goal of motherhood.
In the ensuing three-plus decades, I have mourned a much longer list of dreams deferred. When I finally accepted that I would have no children, I imagined that I would have protégés–disciples, even–as Professor Mering had me and John Hosmer and Phil Avillo; but I have none. Although I once owned a piano, I no longer have one. I don’t have a room I can pretentiously call “the library”; I don’t even have a house. I have no photographs of my trip to Paris; I have never even had a passport. And there are no books with my name on the spine. As I approach my 65th birthday in less than two months, I often dwell on these missing pieces of a life well lived.
Thus, as I began today’s meditation with the trope of the empty crib, I attempted to find some means of turning the image of unfulfilled emptiness into one of promise and hope. And I had to look no further than Google Images. As I scanned the mostly maudlin photographs, one drew my attention–the manger that sits empty in the crèche as we make our Advent journey to Bethlehem.
Seeking Jesus from empty manger to empty tomb to fullness of life is the goal and the promise of Advent.