From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. (Mark 13: 28-31)
I took this picture of a budding tree in northeast Ohio the day after Thanksgiving. When the natural signs on which we rely get off track with shifts in the climate, we can’t use them to tell us about the seasons, to indicate what comes next. The effects of these seasonal cues becoming unreliable can be significant; the Associate Press today published an article by Gillian Gotora (Climate change hits Africa's poorest farmers) that describes the difficulties of figuring out when to plant crops as rainfall patterns change.
We do know, though, where we are in the liturgical year. The lighting of the first candle on our Advent wreaths, the lessons we read, and the hymns we sing tell us that Advent is here. We start off a new liturgical year preparing ourselves to recognize and live into the wonder of the Incarnation, of God coming to live among us on earth.
To help us stay anchored in the season of Advent, the diocese has provided a link to an Advent calendar. (See it here.) Some of the suggested activities to accompany the Scripture verses will get us outdoors to see some of the wonder of creation. Earth Ministry offers a Self-Sustaining Advent Calendar that focuses on activities to strengthen our relationships with family and friends and nature.
The Advent Conspiracy has a similar focus, encouraging us to “worship fully, spend less, give more, and love all”. Here’s their video, which may help us think about how we want to walk through Advent this year: