Several years ago, we took one of our daughters on safari in Africa. During our journeys our guide told me the story of the Acacia trees. He shared that while visiting his sister and brother-in-law, a botanist, amid a great drought near Kenya’s Great Rift Valley, he learned something important about endurance and anticipation.
It seems that during one of the harshest periods of the drought, the usually lush landscape was burned bone dry and brittle. Trees stood like skeletons against the sun. The large river near the camp had evaporated, leaving its bed parched and cracked. The animals could drink only by digging deeply enough to tap subterranean streams.
At sunrise each morning this botanist would climb onto a huge rock under an Acacia tree and watch animals burrow for water. Day after rainless day, he watched elephants, zebras, wart hogs, and gazelles work for their daily drink — until something else gradually captured his attention. At first, he couldn’t put his finger on what had changed. Then, looking up, he noticed a pale green haze hovering around the crown of the Acacia tree. Closer inspection revealed that, although not a drop of rain had fallen, masses of tiny leaf buds had appeared.
Back at camp, he told his friends that acacias turn green in anticipation of coming rains. By gearing up for growth, the tree can take maximum advantage of moisture when it finally does come. In order to become really green, acacias first muster up a bit of fortitude greenness on their own.
Advent, beginning this Sunday, speaks of Isaiah’s anticipated arrival of a new order. But before it comes, we must let something old die and fade away and muster up a bit of greenness in preparation. In Isaiah’s words, “Live what you long for throughout the darker days, and do all these things in anticipation of receiving the blessings you seek” — just as an Acacia tree sprouts buds in the severest drought. In short, if you wish to be loved, then give love. If you want to be understood, reach out to your neighbor with understanding. If you seek freedom, then commit to new levels of participation in God’s new creation.