There’s an amaryllis bulb in a container on my windowsill in our kitchen. The leaves have started their northward ascension – they’re about five inches tall now. And joining them in the gentle morning sunlight is the bloom. It’s just a three inch tall green stem with something of a sprout on top. The plant will continue its slow growth over the next few weeks, and I expect sometime around Christmas, the flower will finally open, a glorious scarlet thing if the picture on the package is to be believed. I know this not only because the package says this is what will happen, but because I’ve grown amaryllis plants many times over the years.
That’s the beauty of being “a certain age” isn’t it? We know a little of what to expect of plants and of life.
In this Advent season, we tend to focus on the children, their wondering faces, the story told once again of a little Child who is to come, the presents under the tree, Santa Claus, and all that…but in a way, Advent and Christmas are uniquely seasons of those of us who are older. We understand the power of hope beyond all odds so much better than the children do. We know that God gives us surprising gifts, not just the gifts under the tree. We know the greatest gift is this Child whose birth we will celebrate on December 25th. And we are willing to open our eyes to see Him when the world around us is all about the shopping and the decorations, because we have seen Him before. We know why He is coming and we pay attention, don’t we?
So here’s an early present, a poem from the Iona Community, that celebrates the hearts and vision of those who are no longer young:
It was to older people that Jesus came, that they might now their place and learn his name, and upset notions of whom God may choose to change the world or celebrate the Good News.
And this they understand who have been told of Sarah who conceived when she was old; and Hannah who found joy despite her tears; and Naomi who blessed her later years.
With Zechariah, zealous for routine, ensuring what’s to come is what has been, they may disclaim an angel’s message, too, declaring God intends to make things new.
Like Simeon, resigned to failing power, old age might yet become the finest hour for those who risk false claims that they’re deranged by saying God wants all things to be changed.
It is not in the manger Christ must stay, forever lying helpless in the hay; it is by older people Jesus is blessed, who see God’s restlessness in him expressed.
In these weeks of Advent waiting, be patient but also be watchful. Be joyful, but remember that this Child comes to make us and the whole world a better place. Be thankful, and be ready to work!