Loving the unborn child  


Christiaan Jacobs-Vandegeer


“Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say rejoice.  The Lord is near.”  These words introduce the Mass on the third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday (gaudete means “rejoice” in Latin). On this Sunday, we rejoice in knowing that at Christmas God comes near to us in Jesus.

St John the Baptist announces the meaning of this arrival. Last of the great prophets, he prepares the way for Jesus with his baptism of water, a sign that God will soon reconcile the world. He calls in the voice of one crying out in the wilderness and makes his prayer and fasting in testimony to the light on the horizon. In Jesus, we find the great joy of our heart’s deepest desire, and in St John we discover genuine humility and faithfulness.

The Church has long honoured the importance of St John the Baptist. In fact, we commemorate his death as well as his birth with feast days. But we miss St John’s significance for us if we focus only on his relationship with Jesus and not ours with him as well. He models for us the beauty of seeing and witnessing to the light. His humility does not depend on his status or relationship with others; it stems from his steady awareness of God. 

Sometimes we need reminders of God’s transformative reality in our lives and the encouragement to prepare ourselves well for recognising God’s presence. Such reminders often happen naturally when we prepare for the birth of a child. A pregnancy can bring great joy as well as deep longing and expectation.  The parents fall in love with the child well before the day of arrival.

Their lives change because of their love. They make space for someone new in their home; they start to plan differently for the future; they celebrate the advent of a new horizon in the wider circles of their families and friends. The birth brings profound meaning to the lives of many people well before it happens. 

When I told my mother-in-law that I could hardly believe how much I loved the child in my wife’s pregnant body, she told me that I could now understand how much my parents loved me. Most of us are loved by someone in this unbelievably powerful way. Advent allows us to see one another in this way of being loved. The passers-by on the street, the neighbours next door, the colleagues at work – they are all children of God and powerfully loved. And when we see them in this way, we recognise a deep reality of who they truly are.

St John the Baptist calls us to rejoice for what God does for us in Jesus. He calls us to prepare ourselves for recognising God’s presence and for living in a world of people who are unfathomably loved.  

Christiaan Jacobs-Vandegeer

© Redemptorists 2020