For the Advent Season, we reached out to spiritual care counselors and clergy leaders and asked them to share their reflections on reproductive justice and the four Advent themes of the Christian church calendar: hope, peace, joy, and love. For each week of Advent, we have gathered messages, prayers, and offerings on each of these themes which connect issues of reproductive justice to elements of the story of Christmas.
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Week 1: Hope
For the first week, Faith Aloud Manager Rev. Jude Johnson shared his reflections on hope:
“Driving along during the holidays, I often see a billboard or sign along the road that says, ‘Jesus is the reason for the season.’ Every time, I take a minute to remember that the Christmas story doesn’t just belong to Jesus. It is also the story of Mary, a pregnant, immigrant woman at the margins of society — even more so due to the circumstances of her pregnancy. I meditate on the feelings Mary might have had; hope, joy, peace, and love, as well as anxiety, anticipation, fear, and fatigue. I hear a mixture of many of these emotions from callers on the Faith Aloud line, even more so as the devastating attacks on abortion access and reproductive freedom continue to escalate.
Theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer says, ‘The celebration of Advent is possible only to those who are troubled in soul, who know themselves to be poor and imperfect, and who look forward to something greater to come.’ Many of us are troubled in soul by witnessing faith being used as a weapon against pregnant people, when Christ-like practices call us to compassion, understanding, and being a safe place for others to lay down heavy feelings and burdens without judgment.
I know we hope for more, and I recognize that there are so many in our community putting that hope into action for reproductive justice. My hope is that these messages inspire and challenge you as we continue to hope and work toward something greater.”
Week 2: Peace
“I will send my messenger ahead of you, one who will prepare your way.” -Mark 1:2
“In Mark’s Gospel, we hear about John the Baptist, who is sent to prepare the way for the coming Christ. As we reflect on this season, ushering in God’s peace with the birth of the Christchild, there is a central call to prepare the way for one another.
In a world not so different than the world of the ancient Israelites, we too are torn apart by war, human rights violations, hatred, and an unjust distribution of resources. But the Divine offers us an alternative path. A path where we advocate for others, where we tend to the needs of people with radically different life circumstances than us, a path where we can empathize and pursue justice for all people.
In this season of Advent, as we watch and wait for what is to come, let us follow the Spirit’s leading and help prepare the way for one another. Let us ensure that all people have access to reproductive healthcare, access to choice without judgment, and companions on the journey. God’s peace is dependent upon us choosing the alternate path and preparing the way for one another.”
Week 3: Joy
For many of us, the joy of Christmas may be complicated by our emotions, circumstances, and relationships. For the third week of Advent, Faith Aloud spiritual care counselor Morgan Simmons reflects on how we can hold conflicting emotions during the holiday season:
“At this time of year, there is an expectation that we are supposed to be filled with joy. ‘It’s Christmastime! Where is your holiday spirit?’ You either become the villain in the holiday movie who then magically feels the warm love of Christmas towards the end, or you are in the wrong for feeling something besides holiday joy.
And yet, I find that mentality really draining and unhealthy. Christmas time and other holidays are incredibly hard for so many. There is a desire to feel joy, but some may feel guilty or saddened to share it with those they hold dear due to death, miscarriage, divorce, or other difficult circumstances.
In the Isaiah text, we hear from the prophet Isaiah about what God calls us to do. ‘To bring good news to the afflicted,’ Isaiah writes, ‘the oil of gladness instead of mourning.’ But the word ‘instead’ in Hebrew could also mean ‘beneath.’ Gladness beneath mourning.
You are allowed to feel a mixture of both joy and mourning this season. You do not have to act a certain way in order to live in the joy that is beneath mourning and grief. For even if you do not know, the Divine is still with you. No matter what emotions arise.”
Week 4: Love
For the final week of Advent, we meditate on the theme of Love by reflecting upon the ways we are loved and the ways we can love ourselves, our families, and our communities. On the theme of love, we share a message from jessica young chang, Staff Chaplain at Massachusetts General Hospital, on Mary’s pregnancy and how joyously choosing our reproductive futures is an act of love:
“Let it be with me as you have said.”
“These are the words of Mary, that pregnant adolescent whose story is so popular this season, when she gets a jaw-dropping visit from Gabriel. Does her reply sound like a full-body hell yes? Some days I think Mary is joyously consenting down to the hem of her blue-and-white robes; some days it sounds like a shrug. Like resignation. Yeah, okay, if you say so.
Thinking of Mary, I’m reminded of all the ways in which we say yes to things that are hard: we say yes, I choose this pregnancy. We say yes, I choose the best life for myself and for this being by terminating this pregnancy. Yes, I will try to get pregnant again, even after I miscarried, again. Yes, I will release these organs and explore other shapes of parenthood.
We are so loved that we have been created with the capacity to choose wisely and correctly about our own reproductive futures. Each yes is an act of love, an opening to what we co-create with Spirit by affirming our destiny with our choice.”
If you feel called to share love through spiritual care, consider becoming a Faith Aloud spiritual care counselor! We are seeking clergy and faith leaders of diverse backgrounds to provide open-hearted, judgment-free spiritual support to people in all of their pregnancy experiences. Click here to learn more and apply!