November 28, 2021
by Eileen Burk-Sullivan
Creighton University's Division of Mission and Ministry
click here for photo and information about the writer

First Sunday of Advent
Lectionary: 3

Jeremiah 33:14-16
Psalm 25:4-5, 8-9, 10, 14
Luke 21:25-28, 34-36

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When my husband, Michael and I first moved back to Omaha we bought a home in an old section of the city with lots of trees.  One of the things we most loved about the house were the elegant oaks and maples that provided such lovely shade in the summer.  But a few years after we moved here the city condemned one of the trees on the parking in front of the house asserting that it was diseased, and then cut the tree down.  Michael frequently bemoaned the loss of the tree and the impossibility (it seemed) to find a tree that would grow on the parking strip. I am convinced that he minded losing that tree every day for the rest of his life.

Shortly before Christmas five years ago, early in the morning, Michael suffered a heart attack.  The EMS group that took him to the hospital left by the front door, and I accompanied them down to the street and then dashed back into get what I needed together and get to the hospital.  When I turned to come into the house, I noticed in a small corner of my brain that a tiny oak sapling was happily growing where no other tree we had planted had taken root.

Today, as I read prayed with the first reading from our liturgy for the First Sunday of Advent, I looked out and saw there was now a tall young tree flourishing.  The shoot from the stump of the old oak had more than sprouted – it was over 25 feet tall and had born of full load of beautiful leaves all summer.  If it continues to grow it will soon match some of the older trees in height and shade granting limbs.  Michael must see that tree from another place in God’s Reign, but it provides for me a kind of quiet confidence that God’s promises are always fulfilled

This promise from the Hebrew Scriptures that whatever glory Jesse’s tree had (and the author is referring to the family tree rather than a biological one he is using for his symbol) will be eclipsed by the Glory of this many-times-great-grandson of Jesse who is the Promised one, the Christ.  He will produce such abundant fruit that all the world will be transformed.  So the promise of Jesse’s old tree is fully alive millennia later.

With the Season of Advent comes the opportunity to become part of Jesse’s sapling – to grow into the life of Jesus in this new year.  It is not shade alone we will offer as companions of Jesus, but fruit that will feed all those who hunger for food, for justice, for peace, for the love of family.  We are called to a new level of relationship with Jesus that invites us to companionship in deepening the reign of God on earth – as it is in heaven.  Simply put, Jesus invites each one of us to fall in love, or more deeply in love, with him;  to find in him the completion of the greatest longings to be what I was called to be from my mother’s womb. 

For each of us such a call challenges us to awaken out of the habits that have blinded us to his endearing love.  I pray today that this new year will be a time when again I encounter Jesus face-to-face and desire above all things to be his companion in the Kingdom Work God asks of me. 

If we pray for each other, we will find companions to keep us awake and to make the labor more fun.  This may well be the best hope and promise we have from Advent this year. 

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