To See the Naked Trees (Advent Week 1)

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(Each week in December I hope to write at least one post reflecting on the lectionary texts from the Sunday before.  This week's readings include Jeremiah 33:14-16 and Luke 21:25-36.)

We flew along back roads surrounded by fields and forests on a gray day in late fall. 

“The trees are naked!” cried a little voice from the back of the van. 

“Yes,” I said, “they are.”

Naked is a big and delight-filled word for a four-year-old boy. 

To notice and accurately apply that word, I imagine, gave him nearly as much pleasure as running around naked does.


This week’s advent texts, in both Jeremiah and Luke, carry images of trees - a righteous branch, a fig tree in spring.  Scholars note how the bible itself begins and ends in a garden with trees.  In this week's readings Jeremiah and later Jesus use trees to tell their own separate but similar stories of waiting and noticing, of promises and their fulfillment.

Advent – the four weeks leading up to Christmas – marks the beginning of the church calendar and I can’t help but notice again that we begin, not with action, but with waiting.  Active waiting accompanied by a good many urgent appeals for us to Pay Attention! and Stay Awake! 

So frequent are the biblical reminders for us to “pay attention,” you would think the human condition is just one big post-Thanksgiving-meal fog.  It’s as though the bible recognizes our tendency to hit the snooze button, to slumber while driving along familiar roads. 

It may seem simple, but it takes a certain kind of attention to notice the state of the world around us, something like the ability of a four-year-old to see and name the nakedness of the trees. 


This week I hope to decorate an evergreen in our yard – a perfectly plump fir we affectionately refer to as “the Christmas tree.”  Last year we could neither afford nor did we have the energy to hang lights outside, but this year we’ve taken the plunge and crumpled icicle lights hang already around the front porch roof and the roof of the well house. 

Soon the kids will climb the Christmas tree with lights in tow and we’ll call out directions from the ground.  It will probably involve some yelling and end in a big tangled mess, but the tree, dressed in its winter greens, will have lights.  I don’t know whether the other trees in the yard – the naked ones – will look on with envy or relief. 

Later this month we’ll cut an overpriced evergreen and drag it into the house where it will become a hiding place for the kids and jungle-gym for the cats.  We’ll string it too with lights and tempers will probably flare between my husband and I and the kids who swarm in excited anticipation as the memory-making debacle unfolds.  

It’s tempting to think of all of those trees and lights as just another distraction.  Sometimes they are.  But I look forward to plugging them in at the end of the day, to watching the kids run off the bus in the early evening dusk toward a house wrapped round with light. 

We may not all have the attentiveness required to notice the “naked trees,” but surely we can learn to notice light.  

May the many lights of Christmas and the trees that bear them remind us of our tendency to snooze.  May they help us Stay Awake as we wait for the coming of the Light.   

*   *   *

Welcome to the #SmallWonder link-up.

What if we chose to deliberately look for the small moments of wonder, the small sparks of presence, of delight or sorrow, of true humanity in which we meet God? 

That's my proposal - that we gather here each week to share one moment of Wonder from each of our days.  

You're invited to link-up a brief post about a small moment of wonder.  Don't worry if your post is too long, too short, or not just right - you're welcome to come as you are.  

While you're here, please do take a look around and encourage at least one other blogger with a comment.  


  1. Lovely post. It is so true - there is much to "see" each & every Christmas. May God give each of us the eyes to see Him in the waiting. It is always good to join you here!

  2. I love "naked" trees too. :) It's a chance to really see their bones, which are so beautiful and unique. Thanks for sharing life through the eyes of little ones, Kelly. It's good for us older ones to hear.

    1. Yes, surrounded by little ones, it's certainly my context right now!

  3. Your kids make me smile!
    We just finished ransacking -- er, I mean decorating -- the house, and I'm convinced (again) that it was worth it. "Let every heart prepare Him room!"
    Blessings, Kelly.

    1. My kids make me smile too, when they're not making me shout! :)

  4. 1. "Naked trees" made me grin on this Monday. (Sounds like something my toddler would say.)
    2. Good luck with the non-flaring of tempers when decorating the tree... For the first time in history, we were able to do it without an adult time out (so it is possible!)
    3. Happy advent!

    1. I like that you numbered your comments - very orderly :) Hoping for no time-outs, but we'll see - I guess that's why Jesus came, isn't it?!

  5. Oh my goodness, I love this post so much! I am adding it to my weekend gathering... and this: "We may not all have the attentiveness required to notice the “naked trees,” but surely we can learn to notice light." That'll preach, my friend!

  6. Love, love , love the way you've woven together the Biblical stories of trees (beginning of Scripture and end--How have I not seen this before?) with your own tale of trees. I am blessed to read this and want to let in sink into my mind and spirit.

  7. Oh, Kelly, your writing just makes me sigh at its beauty. When my husband and I took our solitary drive up into the mountains on Thanksgiving day I noticed 'naked trees', too. Their silhouette against the brilliant orange/blue sky was stunning. I'm beginning to think my favorite season is indeed Winter, for all that we can see when there is nothing else in the way to distract us.
    Your ending lines are perfect,"We may not all have the attentiveness required to notice the “naked trees,” but surely we can learn to notice light."

  8. Malcolm Guite says that Advent is really about three Comings of Christ: in Bethlehem, at the end of time...and right now. That's all active waiting is, right? Attentiveness to Christ's coming in this moment, bickering kids, yipping dogs, tangled light cords and all. Thanks for drawing my attention to Him through your stories here.