Tuesday, May 17, 2011

NATURE'S HANGING OF THE GREEN

Each year, Christians observe the beginning of the Advent season with a ceremony called "The Hanging Of The Green" in sanctuaries all over the world.  Advent is a  four week period of time to prepare for Christmas Day, the designated day on which we celebrate the birth of Christ.  It is a time to prepare yourself mentally and spiritually and to look back over the past year at the blessings we have received.

It has become a very important time and sets the proper mood for celebrating Christmas.  To begin the four weeks, the place of Worship is adorned with evergreen decorations, poinsettias. and ribbons.  Evergreen wreaths are placed in windows or upon walls.  The sanctuary transforms itself from a cold room in the dead of winter, with walls that are barren and cold looking to an appearance that something is happening.  There is something special coming very soon and we are preparing ourselves to give it the celebration that it deserves.

Candles are lit each week, each candle representing a different part of our lives and our faith.  By the time that the reflecting and looking back as well as forward is done, a celebration worthy of the arrival of a King is carried out.  That celebration is Christmas.

Let's change seasons and take a look at nature for a minute or two.  Nature comes out of a harsh winter with trees that are bare and cold looking.  Some of the trees did not even survive the winter and are dead, but you can't tell them apart from the trees that are lying dormant.  The ground is hard and slow to warm up.  The ground has been covered with frozen snow for months.  Then nature prepares itself for it's own type of advent season called springtime.

Spring arrives slowly.  It often gives a little tease of itself her and there until winter comes back and throws another round of cold and ice on it.  The advent of spring arrives so slowly you hardly notice what is happening.  The grass begins to get little green patches that slowly spread out.  The dormant trees grow little buds at the end of their branches as they awake from the long winter's sleep.These little buds become little dots of green as the landscape begins to change little by little.

You can still see far into the woods but it is becoming more difficult.  The cardinals and blue jays start showing up more often as they look for materials to build a new summer home for their soon to be growing families.  Rains start to fall instead of ice and snow and it smells different than the winter moisture.  It smells clean and refreshing.  With each rain the world turns a little greener here and there.

Soon you feel yourself looking forward to summer and looking back at the last winter.  Summer is definitely on its way and nature is telling us it is time to prepare for its arrival.  Flowers start to break through the soil.  The first one you see are little tiny things called crocus.  They are followed by the majestic short lived tulips that spring up everywhere it seems.    Other green plants begin to make an appearance from the long winter and things start looking ever greener from day to day.

The trees grow enough green on them that you can now tell which ones did not survive the winter.  There are two dead trees across the rail road tracks that did not make it.  Yet at the base of even those trees, there is green coming to life in the form of vines.

During the quiet times outside you can hear the animal life in the woods making their way around getting ready for the summer themselves.  The squirrels become lively again as they rebuild or repair any damage to their nests that may have happened over the winter.  Flocks of geese are seen flying in a northerly direction, coming back to their summer homes.

Then today happens.  I walk outside in the early morning hours.  The sun is behind my back throwing all of it's light upon the woods across the tracks.  The green is a brights green seeming to almost be lit up like Christmas tree lights.  The leaves are so thick with greenery that you can barely see ten feet into the woods.  The two dead trees are completely green now with the leaves of vines making them blend in with the trees that are still alive.  The grass is lush and think and a dark green and has been recently mowed giving it a manicured look that only grass can achieve.

The birds are spending all morning calling out to each other in order to make old acquaintances new again.  The squirrels seem to be everywhere.  They are in the trees, on the tracks and scampering along telephone lines that are useful as a shortcut to the tree where they live.  Pigeons are home to roost and are seen flying up and down the valley that the railroad tracks make through the soft rolling hills.

You find yourself standing in the early morning sun in your shirtsleeves, the sun warming your arms as a light breeze blows in from the south.  The sky is crystal clear blue without a scar upon it and it looks as clean as the air smells. 

Spring is a new beginning.  A time to reflect upon the past winter and all the hazards it brought with it.  It is a time to prepare for the summer and all that can and will be accomplished during that time.  It is nature's Advent.  The whole world is decorated in lovely bright fresh green and looks like a painting by one of the old greats.

Spring is a few weeks to contemplate life and its meaning.  It is a time to figure out who you are and what part do you play in the nature of the earth for all of us have a part to play whether we realize it or not.

We are just another species of animal coming out from the winter with the other animals.  For us though, there is a difference.  Spring in it's own way, reminds us of the beauty of God and all that he can do.  Each season has it's own beauty and it's own reason.  Spring seems special though.  Spring is the renewal of all things.  Of all the plant life, the animal life and the spiritual life.

Everything is clean and everything is given a chance to start anew.  Now the question is do we take this opportunity to start anew with the rest of God's creations.

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