By Deacon Derick Cranston
There are trees in some parts of the world that grow out of huge stones. It is something seemingly impossible — a tree sprouting from solid
rock. What happens, however, is that some soil and a seed become wedged in a crevice of the rock and, against all odds, the seed takes root and begins to grow. It grows and grows until it becomes a full-sized tree.
Stones and trees are the images that John the Baptist uses when he emerges from the wilderness after 20-some years spent in solitude praying to the Lord. But now something is telling him he has to leave. There is a tension he can sense in the wilderness around him, a tension in the stones and trees. Something big is about to happen. The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. He can feel it. The same Spirit that would drive Jesus into the wilderness after his baptism now drives John from the wilderness in order that he can baptize.
He goes to the Jordan River warning everyone he meets to repent of their sins, because the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. He begins baptizing those who come to him when, out of the corner of his eye, he spots a tree in the distance that seems to be growing out of a huge stone. There are a group of Pharisees and Sadducees standing nearby. “Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance…” John admonishes the Pharisees and Sadducees, for “every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down.” And just so they don’t rest on their pedigree as descendents of Abraham, he tells them “… I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones.”
When the root of a tree growing from a rock begins to grow, it relies on the small amounts of soil and moisture in the stone crevices to survive. Once it starts to mature though, and its branches reach up towards the sky, the roots become stronger and dig deeper. The roots now become stronger than the rock, and can split new crevices into the rock as it grows over the years and slowly expands.
It is said that just before it splits apart, you can hear a creaking and groaning coming from the rock. It is the pressure from the expanding root slowly forcing the rock apart. It could be minutes away, hours away, maybe even days before it will happen. But at some point the slowly expanding root will penetrate the rock and create a new crevice.
This is what the season of Advent is — listening for that creaking and groaning, waiting for the root of Jesse to shatter the rock of sin that blocks our way to salvation. It is a reverberation felt in all of creation. It began when God broke into time and space and took on human flesh. A moment in history that began 2,000 years ago and that will echo down through the ages until The Kingdom of Heaven, the new Jerusalem, embraces all of creation.