"Hark! the Herald Angels sing... Kate is pregnant with a new King or Queen..."
That may as well have been the words to the carol when the statement from the Royal Palace was broadcast. News outlets and social media burst into excitement Monday morning when the palace announced that Katherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, is pregnant with the heir to the British throne. I can almost guarantee that we'll be hearing non-stop stories about Kate's pregnancy throughout these next few months.
How ironic that this announcement was made on the second day of Advent! Has the season of Advent been shadowed or enhanced by the news of a modern-day royal birth?
Instead of taking this opportunity to discredit worldly kings or queens, I wonder what it would be like to look at Mary's experience through the lens of Kate's famous pregnancy. By doing so, it may make us see the experience of Mary in much more realistic ways.
Granted, I believe both the Duchess and the mother of Jesus are grateful for the experience of pregnancy. From the stories of the monarchy and the narratives in the Bible, both Kate and Mary seem like mothers who would adore their children. How are their struggles similar in nature, or are they vastly different?
Once Kate leaves the hospital, all eyes will be glued to her. Tabloids, magazines and websites will be splattered with "bumpwatch" stories for the next six months. Her every move and every food intake will be noted by the media. Was Mary also on a "bumpwatch"? Due to the timing of her pregnancy, Mary's condition could have sparked rumors regarding paternity and other issues. What kind of stress does "bumpwatch" leave on these two women (and all women)?
Within weeks, we will hear the first commentaries on Kate's maternity style. Kate's pregnancy style will be analyzed by fashion experts and copied by pregnant women spanning the globe. Yet, we will never know what Mary's maternity wear looked like. It wasn't first century fashion. Instead, her attire was most likely affordable and comfortable wear. Her clothes would never be runway-worthy, but her style was authentically Mary.
The situation in which Baby Cambridge is being born is vastly different than the context of Jesus' birth. The new British royal will have every need and possibly any want of a 21st century child. Jesus didn't have iPads or laptops. His family was not wealthy. However, Jesus had the gift of being able to see the presence of the Divine surrounding him. How do their gifts and talents inform who each of them become?
Reflecting on the health of expectant mother Kate, I wonder about a few details about Mary's health. Did Mary experience morning sickness? How long did that last? Were there times that she feared a miscarriage? Did she deliver early, on time or late? To assume that her pregnancy was stress or nausea-free robs Mary of her humanity.
By comparing and contrasting Mary and Kate's stories, we see that, even from his birth, Jesus' monarchy was one of humble beginnings. The miracle of Jesus was that his story transcended his modest upbringing and life. No matter how unprivileged his mother's pregnancy and his birth, Jesus made an everlasting impact on our world. Jesus wasn't born in front of the media, and his birth wasn't Tweeted or turned into a Facebook status update. His family wasn't wealthy and didn't live in a palace. Even so, through his willingness to live and love fully, Jesus has forever influenced faith and social action.
Birth is a miracle no matter who is coming into this world. Whether the family is rich or poor and whether the family is well-known makes no difference. Through the examples of Mary and Kate, we see that their hearts yearn for strong, healthy children who will leave a positive lasting impression upon our world. We see that each person on our planet has the potential to use their gifts to strengthen their communities. Through the excitement that comes with anticipating birth, we see the Advent of hope in every person who lives.