By Garrett Vickrey
It was dark and freezing. And I was covered in tree sap. There we were on the front lawn of the church keeping watch over Christmas trees by night in mid-city Charlotte, NC. For a few years when I was a minister at a church in Charlotte we did a Christmas tree sale every year on the first weekend of Advent. We would transform the lawn of the church into a Christmas tree lot with freshly cut Fraser Firs from the mountains. It was a fundraiser for our youth mission trip. A few of the parents and I would camp out with the trees to make sure none of them walked away in the middle of the night.
Although I never looked forward to these ‘campouts,’ it was a wonderful way to experience the beginning of Advent each year. It was dark and peaceful. Although I always anxiously awaited the end of the sale, there was a camaraderie within our work that made the weekend exciting. You get to know somebody if you sell trees with them.
The season of Advent is all about how God forms us in the in between times. As we await the birth of Christ, God is creating space within us for Christ to bring newness of life again. New life. New love. New joy. New peace. And all this is available in the in between times through the hope we have been given in Christ.
English pastor Lesslie Newbigin was once asked whether, as he looked to the future, he was optimistic or pessimistic. He replied, “I am neither an optimist nor a pessimist. Jesus Christ is risen from the dead!”
In the darkest part of the year we celebrate the light of the world. Everyone is a little merrier this time of year. There are more smiles. More doors held open for strangers. It’s hope that makes this happen. Paul tells those Christians in Colossae that he has heard of the love they have for all the saints that is made possible by the hope laid up for them in heaven.
Hope enables us to lift our eyes above the horizon of day to day life. After all, a horizon is nothing except the limit of our sight. But, the hope of God’s eternal light lifts us to see further. And that hope creates peace, joy and love. That’s something we can share to make this season a little brighter. Arise! Shine! Your light has come. Why not let that light bring light and warmth in the meantime wherever you find yourself waiting this season?