Saturday, December 02, 2006

Advent D

This is it -- the last pre-Advent Day. Tomorrow it will be Advent 1.

I read something a few days ago, perhaps in our church bulletin, about Advent as a time of preparation reflective in some ways of the nesting instinct many women feel toward the end of pregnancy. I say "many women" because I myself recall no such instinct. Perhaps if you are pregnant with twins, meaning that by month seven you have reached the size usually achieved at month nine and are therefore staring down two MORE months in which your lungs and bladder have been squished into the tinest of somethings no longer resembling functioning organs, or if on Day 270 you are still unable to retain much of anything in your tummy (I could describe the effects more graphically but, in deference to the season, I will restrain myself), the concept of nesting is an elusive one. At any rate and for whatever reason, it wasn't something I experienced.

Today, however -- a different story. All you have to do is look at the disastrous consequences of my decision to reorganize our library and you will see that there is some serious nesting going on. Or you will see that the reason I never grasped end-of-pregnancy nesting is that the entire enterprise is simply beyond me.

Unless it's the
monk parakeet variety. In Hyde Park, where we visited our University of Chicago son last week-end, a squadron of monk parakeets took up residence some decades ago. Huge green birds who pass over your head in dive-bomber formation. And they build the most astonishing nests! They live in community, in massive and messy structures that look as if they could bring down trees or transformer poles with just the slightest of additions.

So I am a monk parakeet nester.

And it turns out that nesting, even my newfound version, is relevant to Advent. I received an email from an online friend today in which she mentioned that her Church of Christ does not recognize Christmas as a Christian holiday. Of course, I immediately plied her with questions, but my fascination with religious practices is unquenchable and well known, so I'm sure she's not surprised that I've already done my own search. I found one site that offered an explanation mostly in terms of the pagan origins of our Christmas celebrations, origins that render Christmas decidedly “un-Christian.”

Well, yes. The Romans and the Druids and I suppose other peoples as well had more to do with the dating and practices of Christmas as we know them today than Jesus and his parents did. But, with all due respect accorded to the good folks of the Church of Christ, I can’t claim to be perturbed in the slightest by those historical realities. Christmas is about something so spectacularly beyond our concept of space and time and, paradoxically, so completely enmeshed within our earthly existence and very human lives, that a little confusion over its celebration is to be expected.

Which makes Advent all the more important. Somehow we have to find a way, in four short weeks, to balance the excesses of money, gifts, and food in which we are about to partake against the birth of someone who is about to say, “Sell everything you have.” We have to balance the extravagance of our music and decorations against a chilly night on the outskirts of a small town. We have to balance our intellectual and scientific achievements against the appearance of a star that no one can explain.

It’s not surprising that we are a bit confused, or that our attempts to satisfy all those contradictory impulses render our solutions about as orderly as those of the monk parakeets, who remain under the impression that they are in the rain forest rather than Chicago and behave accordingly. (Probably a good thing, given the blizzard of the past few days. Those parakeet condos may have saved them.)

Luckily for us, the weeks ahead are for preparation, not perfection. Luckily for me, anyway. I realize that other people are better at all of this. Me? I need to create a lot of room ~ a wild nest for a wild event.


Lisa :-] said...

Parakeets in Hyde Park? I'd never heard of that. How cool!

Sometimes, Robin, I wish more peope could have your unquenchable and unbiased fascination with things religious. If only we could all be interested in others' forms of worship, rather than threatened by them.

Cynthia said...

This was so wonderful, the thoughts, those magnificent nests and birds,the contemplative feel, everything. I love your Advent reflections.

Laura said...

Great entry, Robin! I love your contrast of the commercialism of the season with the birth of someone who said, "sell everything".

Kathryn said...

The pagan excesses are fun. It's quite meaningful and, I think appropriate, to associate the birth of Christ with the mysterious and mystical return of the light celebrated for many millenia.

The solstice was considered a time of renewal and rebirth by so many disperse and varied cultures. The fact that Christians adopted that time of year and its traditions makes sense in the context of significance.

Kathryn said...

P.S. Good luck with the nesting - monk parakeet or otherwise.

Jorge Sanchez said...


Deb said...

ROFL - I am a monk parakeet nester myself... and I've seen those nests too. They seem to defy gravity. Love the sentiments of your post...


Rev Scott said...

Love that last sentence - a wild nest for a wild event. Thanks!