A few remaining flowers hang limply from a largely bare fuchsia shrub – their attempt to defy winter’s onset. My garden has mostly lost its summer and autumn colour and appears frozen – if not literally, at least in time. Winter time. And yet . . .

New shoots of rhubarb are pushing up through the ground, in preparation to show off the first harvest of a new year. And, bizarrely, daffodil leaves shot up in October – a somewhat premature but hopeful promise of blooms to come.

Life, despite the promise of a Covid vaccine continues to be, for many people, as bleak as my winter garden. But maybe the garden holds a clue to hope. Those daffodils, for example. I hadn’t planted the bulbs deep enough; well, you try digging through chalk! The leaves’ early appearance hasn’t done them much good. They have to wait for favourable conditions before buds can flower. Similarly, perhaps we need to have deep roots and a strong foundation from which to flourish securely – when the time is right. Going deep doesn’t mean hibernation, nor even dormancy, but preparation – to build up resilience and reserves for growth and future blooming. We wait patiently for warmer and brighter days.

Christian believers are urged by St Paul to, “Keep your roots deep in Christ, build your lives on him, and become stronger in your faith.” Oh, and as he continues, “Be filled with thanksgiving.” As Advent continues, we have the opportunity to reflect on Jesus coming into the world to bring hope and new life.

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