Spending Advent in God’s Winter Garden
“The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad;
the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus;
it shall blossom abundantly
and rejoice with joy and singing.” —Isaiah 35:1-2
Winter has advented again in Michigan. The once green and abundant farmlands have disappeared leaving dead crusty earth with desolate looking yellow stalks poking out here and there. If one didn’t know there were other seasons, the land would look inhospitable except for the evergreens scattered about.
So it is with my little garden as well; dead, so it would seem. Nothing. Barren.
Yet, my little garden is quite alive. Beneath the surface many bulbs busily store all the ingredients of Eden, waiting for a warm breeze to gently call their names. The garden looks dead, but I know otherwise. I have hope.
Our winter gardens provide a perfect image of the Church, during this season of Advent, I suppose. For she does resemble a wasteland sometimes. The grime of sin and death cover and seemingly suffocate God’s people. Surely the world laughs when it looks at us like that Roman prefect who demanded that Saint Lawrence bring out the treasures of the Church. So the martyr deacon brought out God’s people; the raggedy orphans and widows, decrepit old men, and weak looking fools. “Here are God’s treasures!”, he exclaimed. They cooked him like a pig.
The Church can look dead and weak to the world, but we know otherwise. We know the one who planted her. She can look battered and dysfunctional like Corinth. She can look persecuted and on her heels as Europe. She can look like the old man I visited this past week who struggles with the effects of chemo; nausea running through his body, yet hungrily eats the ripe body and blood of the Lord, confessing his sins and rejoicing in forgiveness.
We are a garden planted by the Lord with the seed of Life. Beneath the charred dirt, that seed contains everything; life, forgiveness, the DNA of a perfect being. It works beneath the soil. Sometimes a sprout here and there. We see a glimpse of the future as sinners love one another, as a woman forgives her enemy, or an old man smiles while his body decays, as the Word is proclaimed and the body and blood are given out making roots deep in the lives of God’s precious people as they wait for Spring, an evergreen.
Your church does not always look like you want it to, even on Christmas. Do not fear! All is well as long as the Word is being preached in its purity, and the Body & Blood are given out. She is quite alive! The Church is an article of faith after all. She will bloom. She is blooming.
Yet while we endure this winter, Spring has already sprung and is springing. So we sing, “Lo, how a rose e’er blooming.” In the wasteland, from the dryland, in blood and water, on a cross and springing from a cold dark grave, a crocus has already bloomed; Jesus Christ. We are already singing!
We are not left with blind faith. As John says, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life…”. We know this garden will bloom again and forever, because Christ is risen. More than 500 people saw Him. The sun has already risen and is rising. You are not dead but are living. As Dylan Thomas thoughtlessly sung,
“The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age…”
Come Lord Jesus.
 Enchantment and creed in the hymns of Ambrose of Milan, Brian P. Dunkle