Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Sign of the Crocus

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad, the desert shall rejoice and blossom; like the crocus it shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice with joy and singing. So says the prophet Isaiah in the reading from Hebrew scripture for Advent 3A (Isaiah 35:1-10).

Vincent Van Gogh. Basket of Crocus Bulbs. 1887. Amsterdam: Van Gogh Museum. https://www.vangoghmuseum.nl/en/collection/s0179V1962

The crocus is specifically mentioned in Isaiah as a result when the wilderness and dry land and desert rejoice. What would make a dry area like a desert rejoice? Rain. And that is indeed when crocuses appear in Israel.

The Winter Crocus (Crocus Hyemalis) grows after Israel's long, hot summer. It is among the earliest plants to bloom. The crocus isn't much of a sign as far as volume and height go. The plant is stemless and stands only 1"-3". Its value as a sign (and symbol) is in its ability to withstand the drought of summer and to sprout, sometimes in anticipation of the rain. When you see the crocus you know that the rains are coming. In an arid land, this is indeed a sign.

That's how it will be for the ransomed of the Lord who are returning to Israel. They are a sprout. There will be (re)building to do in the land. There will be land to be reclaimed. There is still work to do. But the sign - the small shoot of green - is there.

One of the questions we need to ask in this Advent season is whether we are able to see small green shoots for what they are. Are we so overwhelmed with a dry and arid landscape that we don't see - don't expect, don't even look for - the green shoots that are signs of return, renewal and the kingdom of God.

On Facebook this week: Van Gogh  mentions crocuses in a letter to his brother. Click on the link below.

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