In the dead of winter, Violet Cemetery, near Goshen College, is one of the more beautiful places to go for a walk. All is quiet, so quiet, you can hear the icicles creak, glassy pins dropping to the snow-white comforter below. The billowy quilt spreads out across the ground, around every trunk, flung carelessly over gray tombstones as if to warm every grave. Only one color imposes itself against the backdrop of this study in contrasts. Small fir trees dot green across the white quilted ground like so many comforter knots, reminders that Mother root is still very much alive, gently tossing and turning beneath her frozen covers.
Should it be any wonder that imaginative human beings for thousands of years have seen something profoundly meaningful in trees that can stay green in the dead of winter and be chopped down and grow new shoots?
Jeremiah uses the lesson of a tree branch to teach an early Advent lesson. He tells of a future time when the stump of Judah, cut down and carted into Exile, would sprout again as a “righteous branch.” The New Testament writers saw this promised branch to be none other than Jesus Christ, Tree of Life, cut down, buried in a wintery grave, aborning life three days later.
When we enter the bleak mid-winters of our lives, let us look to the Tannenbaum, the fir tree, gracing the snow-covered gravestone and know that resurrection life is near at hand. In this season of Advent, at the height of the winter solstice, even as the days are shorter and the nights are colder, may we behold in every evergreen tree, a Christmas tree, our advent sign of hope.