“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14
My journeys into the world of gardening have not been very promising. In fact, I seem to kill more than I nurture and grow. And if I’m honest with myself, I think it’s because while I’m a well-intentioned gardener, I’m a forgetful gardener. A not-consistent gardener. A gardener who isn’t mindful of the seasons and leaves her potted succulents uncovered in the cold, doomed for an early death. A gardener who forgets if she watered the plants last Wednesday, last Saturday, or last year.
It’s not that I don’t love plants; I really do. I love to step out into my yard in the cool of the day, breathe in deeply, and soak in the scents and colors of whatever is in bloom. Their rhythms and cycles of growth are invitations to slow down and pause from the frantic pace of urban life, reminding me there is a time for every season: for planting, tending, fertilizing, weeding, waiting, and harvesting.
But the real reason I like my yard or garden so much is because it is an invitation to intimacy. It reminds me what I lack as a gardener – time, consistency, intentionality, patience, and skill – God does not. He is the perfect gardener. And whatever He plants in my soul He will always wisely and patiently tend to and cause to grow, not despite the seasons but through the seasons.
He never leaves things uncovered that ought to be. He never forgets to water or allow a plant to dry out. He never runs out of time to stoop down low, put His hands in the dirt of my soul, and pull up weeds or carefully place fertilizer where He knows I have room to grow.
And the best part about His gardening is that spaces He clears, the seeds He plants, the time and attention to weeding and pruning and fertilizing He gives, the seasons of winter He allows, are always to create space in my soul for deeper, truer relationship with Him.
As we begin Advent this week, the season of four weeks of waiting leading up to the birth of Christ, we can find help for our journey in the symbol of a garden and the reminders it gives.
For many, this year may have felt like one long season of winter or loss – a loss of dreams, loss of hopes, or loss of a beloved family member. But even though we have all experienced loss this year in one way or another, what the prophet Isaiah reminds us is that we have all been given a son. And this is a much needed reminder during the Advent season. For as exciting as Christmas is, the holidays can also be a painful reminder of what we are missing – a home, a job, a family, a spouse, a son, a daughter, or a parent.
But in the midst of all of our wintery loss, we are given a reminder that we have not been given just any son, but the Son, Immanuel, the name which means “God with us.” He is the Son who remains forever, who brings us joy on a regular basis, who gives us a family, a spouse, a father, and a name all wrapped up in one.
He is a Son for the barren heart, the grieving heart, and the widowed heart. He is a Son for the hurting heart, the lonely heart, and the longing heart, and He answers the cry of every soul with His Name, Immanuel, God with us.
Just as gardens somehow know deep down in their soil that winter will not last forever, so can we. We can know that whatever loss or season the good gardener and Father of our souls has allowed, He will use to produce good fruit and invite into greater intimacy with Himself. He never forgets to water our weary hearts, never forgets to pull up weeds that choke out life, and never forgets to cover and carefully keep what He has tenderly planted and begun.
So no matter what kind of loss this time of year stirs up or brings, step out into a nearby park or garden and remember. Remember that He who gave you Jesus will graciously give you all things to resurrect life and cause hope to bloom again.
Consider praying this with me this week at the start of the Advent season:
Father, when You chose to create the world, You made the choice to send Your Son, for you knew that Adam’s race would need a Savior and a Son long before Jesus walked this earth. Thank You for choosing to send Jesus, Your Son with us, Immanuel. May we allow You to tend to our hearts and to heal every wound in the days to come. In Jesus’ Name we pray, Amen.
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