Thursday, December 1, 2011

Advent 1.5

Reading through this past Sunday's scriptures passages again and again this week, I am struck by their disparate and repeating images: the sky, the clouds, the wind; God as restorer, God as judge, God as parent, God as shepherd, God as potter. Of course, then, there is also the theme of longing, the theme of waiting. 

Today I have been especially thinking about images of the seasons in this week's readings. The Isaiah passage refers to fall, to winter, when it speaks of the shriveling of leaves that are then blown away. We are those leaves, in the metaphor, and our brokenness is the wind that carries us away. In this image we are vulnerable, living fragile lives toward death. It seems appropriate to me to read this passage at this time of year (at least in this climate), as the last leaves fall from the trees, crunch underfoot, swirl in gusts of frozen wind, and are finally buried under snow. The days are short, the gardens dormant, the oaks bare. 

But the Gospel reading speaks of the fig tree's budding, evidence of spring and summer, evidence of life. Jesus gives his listeners the picture of the tree's tender twigs and unfurling leaves as foretaste of a new season, encouraging them to watch for such indications of his coming, with light and life. I know that feeling, the feeling at the end of a winter that seems endless, when the trees' tangled branches stand stark against the empty sky, when the taste of fresh-grown things or the scent of sun-warmed soil is so faint a memory I question its truth. That longing is familiar to my soul. Suddenly, one day, the front maple is ever-so-subtly hazed with green at the tips, and while it happens just this way every year, every year I am astonished and weepy with relief. 

The coniferous tree is the one we usually associate with Christmas; the evergreen's vibrant branches almost miraculously signify life in a time of dormancy and death. I love this image. But this week's readings have me thinking that deciduous trees are perhaps more true to the story of our waiting: their cycle of life and death, their vulnerability to the changing seasons, their apparent total loss of growth in the fall and winter that is followed, again and again, by the surprise of green buds that open themselves to the sun and signify life again--this narrative is ours. Our branches do not always boast green. We have barren times, empty times, wind-blown times. And yet.

We are living in a season of death. But we are watching, waiting for a season of life. 

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful, Cindy.

    There is also great comfort for me, as I age, in reminding myself that I am leaves blown on the wind, or grass. In this life I am temporary & fragile, & that is a blessing. I need not try to shoulder the work of a mountain, or a boulder. Only God is a Rock.