Birds, though you long have ceased to build, guard the nest that must be filled. Even the hour when wings are frozen God for fledgling time has chosen. People, look east and sing today: Love, the Bird, is on the way. (Eleanor Farjeon)
As I look eastward out my window in the morning, I have a host of birds that entertain and intrigue me–mockingbirds, wrens, crows, the busy hummingbird quite in love with the fig tree next door, who drops in often, and if the wind is right, seagulls come screeching through. One morning we were even visited by an adolescent hawk, resting mid-flight on her way to somewhere. But even in our temperate climate, there seem to be fewer birds aloft than in spring and summer months.
According to the carol, the Advent task is guarding the nest that must be filled. This week my heart longs to know how to guard and protect the nests for the little ones in our world who are at risk. We are closely connected to our neighbors in the east in the towns of San Bernardino and Redlands. Beyond the colleagues who were slaughtered last week, I am in grief for the children whose nests have been permanently upended because of that day–the 6 month old child of the shooters, the little ones who were left without a parent after the shooting, the learners who endured hours of lock down while the sorting out process continues, the neighborhood gaggles of young people who now have been close up and personal to the effects of terror. How am I called to be a protector of nests and the ones who inhabit them?
I am reminded again and again how in both testaments of the Bible, there is a call to protect, to care for, to be advocates for the widows and children. A friend here is part of an interfaith coalition of people who are are becoming advocates for undocumented immigrant children shipped in from the border, awaiting in warehouses for the judicial process to grind its wheels. And I support with energy the many gatherings of faithful ones who labor at feeding the hungry children, housing the homeless ones and providing for the well being of so many vulnerable ones. In the movie “Mary Poppins” the most poignant plaint is from the Bird Woman on the steps of St. Paul’s Cathedral, singing “Feed the birds, tuppence a bag.” How am I to feed the birds this Advent?
The promise is that Love, the Bird is on the way this Advent. In a very provocative book, Consider the Birds, pastor Debbie Blue writes about the appearances and meanings of birds in the Bible. Some are metaphors, some are illustrations, some are even names for the Holy One. When I am praying for Love, the Bird, to come quickly, I have in mind one not named in Scripture, but one from the Celtic tradition, who is the symbol for the Iona Community, the Wild Goose. I am told by members of that community that she was chosen as a symbol of the Holy Spirit; they were drawn to her because the wild goose is known for going where it will, like the Holy Spirit, and sometime it makes what seems to us to be a great mess. Certainly I don’t know how and when the Spirit is coming among us, but I believe she will, and I feel sure that in guarding the nests of the little ones, some neat and tidy ways of societal organization might be left in a mess.
Even so the Spirit and the Church cry out: Come, Lord Jesus!
The whole creation pleads: Come, Lord Jesus!
And meanwhile, I am paying attention to the places where I can guard the nests that need filling and care and feed the little birds that are here in this world.