Elizabeth Ivey Garrett
For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy.
Joy. Hope. Anticipation. Preparation. Advent is a time for all of these. It is a time of the joy of the expectation of a new baby. It is a time of hope for what this new child will experience. It is a time of anticipation and preparation for this new life.
In 2019, I gave birth to my first child. She was born in July; in April I had started wondering if these little tickles and blips I was feeling was my daughter moving. A couple weeks after I started wondering, she made it very obvious—a big kick that caused my whole stomach to twitch, and my husband and I both saw it. The joy. The hope. Our daughter was moving, and this, in a way, was our first interaction with her.
With joy, hope, and anticipation, a newly-pregnant Mary goes to visit her cousin, Elizabeth, who is also pregnant. Elizabeth is far enough along that her child, who will be John the Baptist, moves. When he senses the nearness of the holy child Mary carries, he leaps with joy. I imagine the kicking—the strange-but-sweet sight of a little lump moving across the stomach as the baby sticks out his heel or fist.
Mary has come to share her joy with her cousin, and in turn her cousin shares her child’s joy at knowing just whose presence they are in. It is presented as miraculous, mystical, that the as-yet-unborn John recognizes the tiny growing Jesus inside Mary. But babies, young children, animals… they have a way of knowing things.
While I was pregnant, during that time that should have been pure joy and happy preparation, my husband and I were also struggling with the slow loss of our eldest dog to cancer. He died before I was able to tell for sure that my daughter was moving. But he knew. One of his favorite things to do his last couple weeks with us was to curl up next to me on the couch, his ear pressed against my just-starting-to-show stomach. He knew there was someone special growing inside me. Anticipation—he was the first to feel or hear, the first to try to welcome his baby sister, the baby sister he would never meet.
Of course, a dog being more attuned to small movements or sounds is not miraculous. An older sibling hugging their mother and feeling the baby move is not mystical. But for us, those who hope, anticipate, and joyfully prepare this Advent season, that is the closest we will get to the understanding, the deep and miraculous knowledge of this first confirmation for Mary of the holiness of her child.