At each stage of this journey of pregnancy and preaching, there have been physical adjustments that have altered my Sunday sermon preparation. First trimester: How much ginger ale can I consume before 9 a.m.? Will four or five saltines be the winning number for keeping something on my stomach, but not too much. Second trimester: Is it time to highlight the baby belly or is a flowing top a better option? How many breakfasts is too many breakfasts before 9 a.m. on Sunday? Two? Three?

Pregnant preaching collageNow in my third trimester as the weeks get closer and closer to forty weeks, I approach Sundays a bit differently. My Sunday morning routine has changed from, “I think this outfit looks most like a pastor” to “Okay, what fits?” My water intake has to be a little more mindfully timed in order to make it through the service, and my delivery has to take into account this almost seven pounds of life that is pressing into my lungs, making phrasing and breathing more difficult.

But it’s not the physical ramifications of the pregnancy that have been weighing on me most heavily. Now my heart and mind as I prepare are concerned over whether this Sunday will be the last Sunday I will be able to stand before my people and offer a word from God before I go on maternity leave. I wonder is this sermon powerful to sustain and challenge them while others so graciously step in a step up to fill the pulpit.

I wonder as a single-staff pastor whether the time we have planned during my maternity leave will be meaningful and challenging and continue the work God has called us to. Can you really plan that work as far in advance as we have and still make it relevant and responsive to the needs of the community? Should it really be okay for the pastor and preacher to not be there during Advent on of the holiest seasons in the life of the church?

But what if this new life is the gospel message? What if the hope and anticipation along with the physical adjustments are what new life is all about? Perhaps this is the most powerful lesson of the last forty weeks. New life doesn’t come without it’s discomfort. New life doesn’t come without work. New life doesn’t come without sleeplessness and restlessness.

New life changes every aspect of who we are and how we view the world.

Merianna Neely Harrelson is pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church, Lexington, South Carolina. This post originally appeared on Merianna’s blog.