Take a moment to get comfortable, close your eyes and take some deep breaths. Imagine a garden that no-one has looked after for a very long time. What do you see? Maybe you see lots of weeds and dying plants all shrivelled up and brown… maybe there is rocky, dry soil where no plants can grow… or lots of tangled, overgrown plants. I wonder how you feel as you look at the garden. What would make this garden beautiful again?
Imagine yourself working in the garden… You start pulling out weeds – so many weeds… You remove rocks from the soil, add special nutrients, and dig, and dig, and dig… You water the shriveled plants and cut back the overgrown bushes. It’s hard, tiring work but you know it needs to happen so the garden can be restored.
Now, take some time to sit with God, in the garden of your soul. Together, take a good look around. Are there parts of your life that are like the neglected garden? Are there parts that are dry and withered? Areas that are overgrown or full of weeds? As you look around, what is God saying to you? With God, the Great Gardener, by your side, what areas could you start working on this Advent?
Know that God is a God of HOPE and that even amid the shriveled plants, weeds, and dry places, God is at work in you. As you are ready, slowly open your eyes and pay attention to the sights and sounds around you. This week, take some time to think and chat about, what you can do to bring life back to the garden of your soul. What glimmers of HOPE do you see or feel?
Isaiah 64: 1-9,
Psalm 80: 1-7, 17-19,
1 Corinthians 1: 3-9,
Mark 13: 24-37
Joel 1: 1-20,
Genesis 2: 4-25, 3: 1-24, Psalm 63
You are a God of HOPE.
Thanks for being with me when I’m hurting.
Thanks for being with me when everything is going wrong.
Thanks for being with me when I feel like a shrivelled-up plant.
Please water me with your love this Christmas and help me show love and hope to other people. Amen.
God is a gardener. In the beginning, God planted a garden in Eden and then placed human beings in it so they could reflect God’s image through gardening! (Gen 2:8-15) When we tend to the earth, we communicate God’s love and care to our fellow creatures.
“Advent” means coming, or arrival. The Advent season is an opportunity to pay attention to God’s gardening work in us. During Advent, we remember the ways God has cared for God’s people in the past, and we look forward to Christ’s return to earth when he will bring all Creation into order.
The prophet Isaiah longed for God’s presence to be restored on the earth. Isaiah asks for God to “come down” (Isa 64:1) and remembers the way that God had previously “come down” (Isa 64:3), causing the mountains to shake. The author probably intends for us to think of Exodus 19, when “Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the LORD had descended upon it in fire… while the whole mountain shook violently” before God spoke the Ten Commandments (Ex 20).
God’s “coming down” in this way was spectacular, loud, and scary – it was awe-inspiring, but also fearful. But perhaps even more than that, it was unexpected. Throughout history, God has done awesome deeds that human beings were not even waiting for! (Isa 64:3) Who would expect God to deliver them from slavery in Egypt, part the Red Sea, and provide dry land to walk upon? For centuries, God’s people waited for a Messiah, but when Jesus came, most people did not recognize that this was the one they’d been waiting for.
We do not know how God will work in us this Advent season, but we can be assured that God will act for those who wait (Isa 64.4). As we prepare the soil of our hearts, let us wait in expectation for the work of our Gardener.
The psalmist writes, “Restore us, O God; let your face shine, that we may be saved” (Psalm 80.3). Just as fruit in a garden ripens in the light of the sun, let us turn our hearts toward the Son, that we might be saved.