I am the oldest member of my family. I have one younger sister and together we said goodbye to our parents eleven and almost eight years ago: both right around Christmas time. The Advent season is emotionally very difficult for me. I am stuck between two worlds. I care for my own children while mourning the loss of those who helped form me. I carry on the traditions taught to me by grandparents and parents. We pray the same Advent prayers at dinner. The very same crèche, complete with angels and shepherds, sits in my living room as it did in my childhood home. I am happily sharing with my own children the traditions established before me to await the birth of Christ. I miss my parents, grandmother, and the great aunt I adored. I miss sharing all of these Advent traditions with them, but passing them on to my own brood of children brings me great comfort.
My oldest son, a junior in high school, was recently in a stage production of Children of Eden. He is named after my father, and he inherited from his grandfather not just his name and his generous heart, but his love of musical theater. No one loved a good musical more than my dad, until, perhaps, when his namesake began listening to them on his own just a few years ago.
The second act of Children of Eden begins with a song called Generations. It is based on a passage in Hebrew Scriptures, a precursor to today’s Gospel. It begins with Adam and Eve and, as each name is called out, the generations shift, moving across the stage to stand with others from their generation. While not the preeminent number in the show, it is powerful. The actors move and shift alone and then in groups to and from one another. As characters die, others are born. None are forgotten, and all are united.
I stand proudly on the shoulders of those who came before me while leading the ones with me now to Christmas, the birth of Christ. We sit together remembering those before us and look to the future we hope to create. We wait patiently to be reunited with our loved ones as we await the birth of Christ.
And as the responsorial psalm reminds us, “Justice shall flourish in his time, the fullness of peace forever.” Peace of mind, the peace in my heart this Advent season. There are many who have come before me and many will come after me. Advent is a time of preparation and waiting and, while I am not very patient, I wait and hope to be reunited in the fullness of peace forever with all those I love.
Generation after generation that is what we wait for during the season of Advent. It is what I wait for.
Cristina Fleener McGroarty teaches traditional and accelerated undergraduate students in the School of Nursing and I teach in the clinical setting. Her background is in pediatric hematologic-oncological nursing.