Advent 1 – Luke 21:25-36 . . . Then he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they sprout leaves you can see for yourselves and know that summer is already near.”
(This is a revised 2009 reflection. In my new 2012 Advent reflections I’m ignoring more traditional interpretations of the Advent/Christmas scriptures. Of course, you may read this and think, “Hey Larry, this 2009 piece is also ignoring the obvious!”)
In Luke’s gospel, anticipating the second coming and the signs and portents that will serve as preamble, Jesus points toward the fig tree. Look at the fig tree, when it sprouts . . . “summer is already near.” Likewise, the powers of heaven will be shaken and soon people will witness the “Son of Man coming in a cloud.”
It is good to know when the end of time as we understand it will be near. Warnings help. Knowledge represents power!
And yet, along the route where I walk my trusty dog Hannah for our morning stroll I’ve observed evidence of the coming summer winter by the sprouting of a fig tree. Not far from home, inching skyward, is a random ficus caricas. (Oh, you doubt me? Note the picture I’ve taken. I knew you might question my horticulture expertise, would have doubts about my figly facts.) Every morning, for months, we’ve passed this fig tree. It grows. It sprouts leaves. And now, with winter beckoning, with Advent upon us, with Jesus’ cautionary comments about figs rattling ‘bout my lectionary thoughts, I see the first fig fruits emerging. Help! The sky is falling, the figs are growing!
But here’s what I know to explain this strange event I’m experiencing. I live near a street called Fig Garden Loop. I frequently shop at Fig Garden Village. When I moved into my home fifteen years ago, I battled a persistent fig tree volunteer that grew below the window of the dining room. Unchecked, it represented an obvious future threat (in fifty years or so) to the house’s foundation.
Fresno, my city of residence, is a former field of figs. In the early nineteen hundreds local farmers decided figs would be a swell addition to the agricultural bounty. They planted gazillions of them. Those early ficus caricas aficionados were a committed, clever group. The soil in this area is hard and cruel, a cousin to concrete. And so they—I kid you not—dynamited holes to plant the first crop of figs. I’ve seen early photos; the fig orchards covered the ironing board flat landscape as far as the eye can see. Continue reading →