Being pregnant during Christmas, I'm learning, has its benefits: a perpetual holiday glow, an excuse to eat two, or five, cookies, and a legitimate reason to buy new clothes (i.e., presents) for yourself. One thing pregnancy doesn't do, however, is make Advent more spiritually significant.

For as long as I can remember, I've been obsessed with the Virgin Mary. When I realized that my pregnancy would overlap with Advent, I relished the chance to relate to Mary's experience of waiting for Jesus in a unique and profound way. This Advent, I was sure, would be unlike any other.

And so far, it has been. But not because I'm pregnant.

In his book Mary For Evangelicals (IVP, 2006), theologian Tim Perry attributes Christians' fascination with Mary to our fascination with Jesus. Mary, he writes, "directs the faithful away from herself, always to her Son." Nowhere is this truer than in the Christmas story, in which Mary's blessedness derives not from her but from her child. Somehow, I had forgotten this. Using childhood storybooks and Nativity scenes, I had constructed an image of Mary that superseded the child she carried.

Experiencing Advent through Mary's eyes is, indeed, a powerful way to celebrate the season. But because our true celebration is about waiting for Christ - not waiting to go into labor - Mary's experience is one that all believers can share.

You don't have to spend even a few minutes with a child to see that we are innately bad at waiting. In 1972, psychologist Walter Mischel of Stanford University conducted the now-famous Stanford marshmallow experiment, which studied deferred gratification in children. In the experiment, each child is offered a marshmallow and two options: eat the marshmallow now, or wait a specified ...

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