The Greatest Gift
Reading Selection for December 1st pp. 1 – 7
“It is Advent: Come”
This first Advent reading selection is based on Isaiah 11:1 (NLT) – “Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot— yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root.”
Out of the stump of Jesse, Isaiah writes. I don’t know about you, but to me stumps represent things that once were and what no longer is. Things that appear to dead.
My husband and I still live in the home we bought one month before we were married over 22 years ago. It seemed so large and grand when it was just the two of us and not one stick of furniture. All we brought to that house were ourselves, some hand-me-down furniture (some of which I still own), our dreams and some memorabilia of life before we were an Us.
I don’t remember taking note of it before we bought the house, but once we moved in and started taking stock of our little homestead, both of us quickly fell in love with a little mimosa tree in the front yard. I don’t think I had ever seen one before. When it was in bloom each morning as the sun came up it would unfurl its fronds as if to display its beauty just for us to see. At night the branches would sort of close in on themselves as the sun went down, like the tree was going to sleep. I think that it bloomed twice a year. And for those few weeks each time it bloomed, it was like receiving a personal, “Good morning” and “Good night” from the Lord, just for me and Popey.
People who knew about these trees warned us that they are fragile and usually don’t last very long, but ours did. For 18 or 19 years that tree welcomed us every time we pulled into the driveway and even tucked us in at night. It beckoned a newlywed couple into an adventure of life together; it smiled on us as we brought home three beautiful babies from the hospital; it comforted us as we arrived home from funerals; it sent us out into the world each day with a smile; and it waved at kids getting off the school bus every afternoon. That tree said, “Home” to me and my family.
It grew so tall that it overshadowed everything else in the front yard. It felt like a protective canopy spread over our home. I loved that tree. I even loved it when the wind blew its fronds to the ground and the driveway and yard were covered with the tiny seeds. I loved it still when the blooms died and fell onto the driveway. I loved it a little less when it rained on top of those blooms and fronds and made our driveway so slick that you could practically skate down it.
Sadly a few years ago we woke up one morning after it had stormed and a significant branch was lying across our driveway. We had known the mimosa was too big, too weak and even though we had cut down some of the dead branches it wasn’t enough. It was time to cut the whole thing down. To me it was like cutting the hopes and dreams and expectancy of those newlyweds down. It was like saying good-bye to those two precious, unsuspecting kids who, in spite of themselves, had made a home in the blue house with the beautiful mimosa.
What had once looked so welcoming and comforting to me, looked barren and sad after Popey cut down that tree. In some ways it felt like I moved from a season of everything being a new adventure to the middle years where a heavy sense of resignation moved in for a long, cold visit.
A couple of years later, I pulled into the driveway one day and for some reason glanced over at the stump that used to be our grand mimosa. Right in the center of that stump were several mimosa shoots starting to pop up. I couldn’t help but smile. In the middle of that ugly stump was the hope of something new, something potentially grand. Popey told me not to get my hopes up, that it is very unlikely they will ever grow into a full-sized tree. But my hopes are up, I can’t help myself. I am smiling right now thinking about it.
As I read the verse for the first day of Advent, it reminds me that in things much bigger and more important than trees, I can have hope in the stump-y seasons. Right in the middle of seasons that seem dead and impossible. The coming of Christ two thousand years ago was the hope, the promise of new life in the middle of the dead stump of humanity. He came and He’s still coming. Every day, He’s still coming for us.