Trees and Branches

Lectionary Scripture Text: Jeremiah 33: 14-16 (Advent 1C)

14The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. 15In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David; and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. 16In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. And this is the name by which it will be called: “The Lord is our righteousness.”

“The days are surely coming…”  These words attributed to the prophet Jeremiah are spoken into a world filled with uncertainty and despair.  They are spoken at a time when Judah was literally being squeezed between the powerful and foreboding Assyrian nation to the north and Egypt to the south and the west.  The faithful were on the verge of losing their society, their culture, and their faith.  They were forgetting who they were.  Hope was fading fast.  The words were not a promise that things would be repaired or would go back to the way they were before.  The promise was of a future hope, a New Creation beginning to rise just on the horizon.  

The scripture talks of a righteous branch that will spring forth.  It is a New Creation.  It is that New Creation for which we look in this season of Advent.  For us, the coming of Christ points us toward this New Creation.  But branches do not grow alone.  They are attached to the tree, sharing food and source with other branches.  The branch is nothing by itself.  If it somehow becomes detached from the tree, separated from its sustenance, the branch will die.  It cannot exist alone.  Sometimes we forget that.  We begin to think that our way of being and our way of thinking and our way of understanding God is all there is.  But this branch springs forth from a tree whose roots reach deep, roots that connect us all.

We are that branch, that righteous branch.  But righteousness is not being “like God” or even better than most.  Righteousness is holiness.  It is realizing who and whose we are.  It is knowing that this branch is nothing without the tree to which it is connected.  It is understanding that our source and our sustenance is not made by us but comes from the God who created us all and from whom we spring forth, much like the branch that springs from the tree.  Righteousness is being and growing in the way one is called to be.

This season of Advent is not situated in linear time.  It is not a sequential season through which we cycle each year.  It is a mystery, a season rooted in the past as we remember the promise of hope made to those so long ago, a season placed in the present as we prepare ourselves to fully grasp the meaning of Christmas, and a season that thrusts us toward the future, toward that promise of a New Creation.  In this season, we realize that we are part of that branch, growing out of the sustenance and source that has existed all along and, as the righteous branch, growing forward as we reach toward the Light.  Our stems and leaves may intermingle with other branches, even growing around them until they become indistinguishable.  All of these branches growing together are part of a whole, part of a tree whose roots reach deep into time, sustaining everything, part of a network that always grows toward the Light.  So Advent is not merely a season of waiting; it is a season of finding the Light.

Faith is not something to be grasped; it is a state to grow into. (Mahatma Gandhi) 

Grace and Peace,

 Shelli

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