I am desperate for anticipation in this season of Advent, the awaiting of the coming of the Messiah. Mother Teresa once remarked that John the Baptist was the first person to rejoice at the coming of the Christ when he jumped for joy while still in Elizabeth’s womb, and Jesus was yet in Mary’s womb. That’s the kind of joyful anticipation I want.
I start with Isaiah.
A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of might,
the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the LORD—
and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.
Feeling like a stump, it’s so reassuring to know that the Spirit of the Lord is coming. “From his roots…” and I wonder about what keeps roots alive and I’m still astonished that fruit should come from there.
He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
On this paved road to Bethlehem in my century, knowing the end of the story is a unique perspective, a blessed place. I don’t have to look for the signs, read the skies, search the prophets. But I think about the days of Isaiah, when the Advent was but a distant hope, and there is something unrivaled and momentous about that place, too, a place of watching, waiting, hoping. Anticipation stirs passion, and I’d like to go there, to Isaiah, in my mind, because here and now, with the gift already come, I sigh and fear falling into lethargy.
…from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
When dear women in my life have babies, I visit them in the hospital and nearly without fail, I cry. Tears flow from wonder at the beauty and miracle, and how can I not notice the Mystery? The Spirit of the Lord rests heavily there, and I fairly swoon at the smell of the newborn, like milk and honey and fresh rain, and the sight of his tiny curled fingers–and I’m desiring now to be lifted to the heights at the thought of that One Baby, and I’m mortified that I don’t approach the Christ-child the same.
Was there a moment, known only to God, when all the stars held their breath, when the galaxies paused in their dance for a fraction of a second, and the Word, who had called it all into being, went with all his love into the womb of a young girl, and the universe started to breathe again, and the ancient harmonies resumed their song, and the angels clapped their hands for joy? ~ Madeleine L’Engle
I’ve asked the questions a hundred times at least, “How are you feeling?” as I observe the swell in the belly of my sisters and friends. “Are you hungry all the time, are you nauseous?”
I want to be hungry all the time as Advent proceeds down this crowded, bustling road to Bethlehem. Hungry to feel His presence, to simply anticipate. For now, I just feel nauseous at my dispassion, but it’s a start.
I’m asking what it takes to feel hungry, and perhaps part of the answer is an empty space, a fasting from busy, a tenable chance for hunger to wake me into longing and then I’ll hold my breath with the stars. I need an unpaved, uncrowded road to Bethlehem here in my heart.