Last Friday, on the day after Thanksgiving, one of my church’s members and I went out to another family’s property and cut down the church’s Christmas tree. It’s a big tree this year, tall and round, and we struggled a couple of times as we dragged it back up a hill and threw it in the back of his pick-up. Nevertheless, we eventually got it to the church, set it up, and left it there for the children of the congregation to decorate today.
We do this every first Sunday of Advent. Years ago the parishioners who own the land where we cut down the tree bought a bunch of saplings at a fundraiser. They planted them in the ground, and by a few years back they were growing big enough to serve as Christmas trees. That couple goes to Florida every winter, but before they leave they tie a ribbon around one tree for the church to cut down. It’s their gift to us every Advent.
This morning the tree was there in the sanctuary as we lit the first Advent candle, the one that traditionally signifies hope. I thought about those little saplings that were bought years ago, and the hope that the man who planted them had for them. And I thought about how they grew into trees so big that they had to be dragged breathlessly up hills.
For me, Advent is about waiting and watching. In Advent we look at the world through eyes that want to see Jesus. That means we look at the world through hopeful eyes and, in many cases, we learn to see what is already right in front of us. If we look closely, we just might find that all around us there are already reminders of Christ’s presence. Maybe even in the most mundane of things. Maybe even in the hope that makes someone buy a few saplings and plant them, hoping that one day he can give them to his church as they wait and watch for Christ together.
Last year I undertook a spiritual discipline of writing daily Advent devotionals. I shared them on social media, but mostly I did them for a selfish reason: I am much better at seeing Christ around me in Advent when I make myself take time everyday to look. This year I’m doing these devotionals again for the same reason, though also with the hope that might speak to others on this same journey. This year I’m adding something else: a question a day. Sometimes it will just be one for reflection. Sometimes it will spur us to some sort of action. But I hope that always it will cause us to see Christ coming, and Christ’s presence, more clearly. So here’s todays:
Question: As you unpack Advent and Christmas decorations, which one speaks to you most about the hope that Christ brings to us all?
Prayer: God, help me to see Christ’s presence today in the ordinary and the extraordinary, and show me the places where hope has already grown into blessing. Amen.