Consider nature at this time of year. What kind of a day is it? What do you see or imagine?
- If you are near a window, look outside. If not, still consider nature at this time of year. What kind of a day is it? What do you see or imagine? If it is wintry, just be present to it for a while.
- If you wish, go outside and find a leafless tree, or withered flower, something that speaks of winter’s unresponsiveness. And let it be whatever it is.
- In Isaiah we read, “But a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse, and from his roots a bud shall blossom.” Jesse was the father of king David and the Jews believed that the Messiah would come from David’s line. Christians understand Jesus as the fulfilment of that prophecy. The root of Jesse represents the ancestors of Jesus. And Jesus himself is a shoot that will become a flower bursting into life.
- In Luke’s Gospel, Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist speaks of what God is doing at that time through Jesus (and also John).
Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy:
Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel! He has visited his people and redeemed them.
He has raised up for us a mighty saviour
In the house of David his servant,
As he promised by the lips of holy men,
Those who were his prophets from of old.
A saviour who would free us from our foes,
From the hands of all who hate us.
So his love for our fathers is fulfilled
And his holy covenant remembered.
He swore to Abraham our father to grant us,
that free from fear, and saved from the hands of our foes,
we might serve him in holiness and justice
all the days of our life in his presence.
As for you, little child,
you shall be called a prophet of God, the Most High.
You shall go ahead of the Lord
To prepare his ways before him.
To make known to his people their salvation
Through forgiveness of all their sins,
The loving-kindness of the heart of our God
Who visits us like the dawn from on high.
He will give light to those in darkness,
Those who dwell in the shadow of death,
And guide us into the way of peace.
Let yourself be who you are, and where you are. And let Jesus be who he is.
- In the Northern hemisphere we are in the depths of winter. Little grows. Trees and shrubs lie dormant. Most flowers are long gone. The external scene can affect our own soul. We can feel pretty lifeless in the middle of winter. And the winter can symbolise the state of our own souls or even the state of humanity in the grip of dereliction.
- Where in the world or the church or your own self is there a corresponding lack of life and colour?
- Under the ground nature bides her time but is not idle. Bulbs send out roots, seeds vernalise in the frosts and break open ready for warmer weather. (We may recall Jesus saying: Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies it remains but a single grain, with no life). The roots of trees are active still, searching for and retaining goodness in the soil, preparing to fuel spring growth.
- This is a good image for prayer, especially when nothing or very little seems to be happening. If it is dry, can you let it be what it is, and trust that God knows what he’s doing? Rest in that God for a while. Don’t force the shoots of spring. Let yourself be who you are, and where you are. And let Jesus be who he is.
Talk to God
The waiting season of Advent gives us cause to stop and articulate a desire for the Messiah to come to us, to take root in our hearts
- Humanity waited for the Messiah to come, for many generations, and it must have seemed a vain hope at times. We continue to wait for Him to come to us, to break open the hard shell of our hearts, to add colour to our monochrome lives. The waiting season of Advent gives us cause to stop and articulate a desire for him to come to us, to take root in our hearts, to flower in us...
- Speak to him of your desire for him to come to you
- Do we also wish to flower and fruit with him? He comes to us and we desire then to take him to others...to give of ourselves...to add a little light, colour and warmth to a world in need.
- Speak to him of your desire to come to him and work with him
- There’s a parallel with Easter here which is evident in this final verse of a well known Easter hymn:
When our hearts are wintry, grieving or in pain,
Thy touch can call us back to life again;
Fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been:
Love is come again, like wheat that springeth green.
- Under the surface, love is come again. O shoot of Jesse; O flower of Jesse’s stem.
Lord and Ruler,
Root of Jesse,
Key of David,
King of the Nations,
Emmanuel, Come Jesus.