Advent Day 1, Sunday, December 1
“The mattering part is never what isn’t. The mattering part is never the chopped-off stump. It isn’t what dream has been cut down, what hope has been cut off, what part of the heart has been cut out. The tender mattering part is – you have a Tree.” ~The Greatest Gift, Ann Voskamp
When I was little, well, even when I grew into my teens, I remember that most of our Christmas trees were…gifts. Mom would have no money or very little to spend on a tree and decorations. I don’t remember how we got our trees; sometimes it’s best for children to have the gift of not knowing. Some trees were tall, some would fit on our coffee table; some years we would have store bought bulbs and others we would hang homemade decorations. My favorite Christmas trees were usually the ones we decorated at my Memaw’s house. They were large and full with colored lights, many ornaments saved from over the years, and tinsel…so much silver tinsel!
I remember sitting at the foot of those trees, looking at the lights, and…dreaming. Something about twinkle lights and shining, shimmering ornaments can create wonder in a young heart; they can even give her hope…a reason to dream of how the future might just be like that tree – full of light.
My least favorite time was when my Mom would take everything down – the un-decorating. It seemed we packed up Christmas, with all it’s sparkle, with all it’s sweetness and cheer, with all it’s light and said, “Until next year.” And just like that, my tree was gone. Life would soon return to normal; where darkness had been enveloped in light for a month, it would reappear and take over…again. Life that had seemed so full of expectancy, light, and wonder now became empty…again. The tree that had stood tall enough to inspire dreams in my young heart, now was on its way to the dumpster, to rot, to have no remnant except whatever stump it had been severed from. That’s how my life felt…a lot…like a bunch of stumps. Stumps that were now walked over and forgotten and seen as…dead.
And this is where life began in Christ, in the seemingly dead. In a world where sin had severed, in days where God was silent, in times that were hard, God began there. In the dark, dead world God found a place to plant the Seed of His dream, a branch out of a tossed out tree, a shoot out of a stump – He found the heart and womb of…a young girl-child. She who would sit at His feet, look up in wonder, and dream…with Him. She would see the Light.
Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot—
yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root.
And the Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
Isaiah 11:1-2 NLT
Father, I am feeling stripped of dreams, aspirations, and longings. I am confused; I don’t know the next steps to take. So, I stand…still…in the midst of everyone and everything moving. I am yearning for my “Finally!” Finally joy! Finally unwavering trust – belief! Finally contentment! Finally peace (not this restlessness)! Finally…a whole heart…a whole life given to You. Finally…And in the darkness, I can begin to see the Light. I am beginning to know the hope of dreaming again; having Your dreams become my own. I can sense the soon-to-be birth of contentment and joy-full-ness, found only in Your presence. And there is new life springing, even in this cold, hard ground. “24 Now in this hope we were saved, yet hope that is seen is not hope, because who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8)
**Right now I and my Bundle (family) are living for Advent – “The Coming” of Christ. I am using Ann Voskamp’s new book, The Greatest Gift. I may use quotes and ideas from her writing which I will notate; anything not marked is my own.