In those days and at that time, I will raise up a righteous branch from David’s line, who will do what is just and right in the land. In those days, Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety.~ Jeremiah 33: 15-16
In many bird species, particularly birds of prey, the female is larger than the male. The reason is that during nesting, the female tends to do most or all of the incubating of the eggs. During this time, food can be scarce since the partner has to provide for both of them. So incubating birds tend to lose weight. Thus, incubation becomes a sort of fast.
Advent is a time of spiritual incubation. We symbolically relive the pregnant waiting for the birth of the messiah. Traditionally, the season was a time of fasting, though rampant consumerism has created a culture of festivity that starts earlier and earlier each year.
But what if we were to honor the true spirit of Advent and pause to consider what we are expecting? Like a bird on a nest, we would have nothing if not hope. The prophet Jeremiah was writing during a time of exile, when the people were far from home and wondered if God had forgotten them. They would have felt more like a stump than the tree they once had been. In this bleak time, Jeremiah foretold of a branch growing from that stump. Whatever was sprouting surely would not have resembled a branch, but it would be enough to encourage patience.
Patience has been a victim of the ever-increasing pace of modern society. In this time of uncertainty it is forgivable to be eager for positive change. Advent calls us to take a breath and consider that an egg is not yet an egg any more than a sprout is a tree. Like the bird hoping that she has enough weight to endure the losses that come with waiting for eggs to hatch, we can accept that the price of patience is worthwhile. Indeed, if we can observe Advent as a holy fast, we may find that we can make room in our inns for housing the holy.
Prayer: Heavenly dove, hide us under your wing as we wait and hope. Amen.