Around five years ago I was horrified by some really awful pastoral care offered by a minister to a young couple whose first pregnancy ended in the pain of a miscarriage. At the hospital the pastor visited and told the grieving mother and husband, “You are young and can always try again.” That’s perhaps biologically and physiologically true, but so short-sighted and such a profound way to emotionally and spiritually re-victimize the young family. I cannot imagine what was going through the mind of the mother whose ears had heard words that in no way noted or celebrated what God had been creating inside her womb. It was as if she’d been told, “Get over this, just start over when you get the chance.”
There is no cause for such sorry care of parishioners, but I wonder if the sorry-care-shoe doesn’t fit more than one foot. It might even prove to be a one-size-fits-all.
I wonder if we preachers and teachers inflict this same short-sighted victimization/re-victimization upon those grieving ones when we ply through Advent touting the joys of pregnancy and the delights of a newborn. Some do not know that joy. Some cannot relate to the pangs of birth that find release upon the touch of their newborn. Some have tried to know these joys and have been presented with miscarriages, or the death of a spouse during labor, or both the death of spouse and child in the childbirth process. We cannot know the histories of every mother or father in our parishes this Advent. Does our preaching divide or wound the faithful because we have inadvertently put on the sorry-care-shoe?
Preachers, let’s make certain that we perpetrate nothing on no one this Advent or ever, but instead let’s point to Jesus at work in all things, even in miscarriages and barren wombs. Advent is about grace, not fertility, not maternity, and not human reproduction nor conception. The story of Jesus isn’t a story intended to create pain or highlight one group over another. It is a story of God’s fulfilling of a promise for all people. There’s just no room for the sorry-care-shoe. Let’s make our Advent preaching reflect that God’s promise is for ALL PEOPLE!