Christmas in the Swamp
“For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert; the burning sand shall become a pool, and the thirsty ground springs of water; the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp, the grass shall become reeds and rushes” – Isaiah 35:6b-7
There will be no white Christmas in Gainesville, Florida, tomorrow. No frosty snowmen. No children lying on the ground, waving arms and legs in angelic impressions. We will sing “Jingle Bells” and “Winter Wonderland,” but some images will be lost on kids that have never seen a flake of the white stuff.
Instead, all over town, citrus boughs are drooping. Soon, if I’m lucky, someone will drop off a sack of sweet Satsumas, a local orange too delicate or too tasty to ship up north.
Instead, on Paynes Prairie, hundreds of Sandhill cranes, our guests from Thanksgiving to Valentine’s, are dancing and singing prehistoric carols to the lazy winter sun.
Instead, around Alachua Sink, hundreds of alligators are basking on the banks, the herons and egrets stepping warily around their snouts as the birds stalk the shallows for fish and frogs.
Instead, in the cobalt blue springs that surround us, manatees are escaping the chilly Gulf and floating peacefully in the year-round 72-degree waters.
For residents of north Florida, Isaiah provides a more accurate vision of the world into which we welcome Love Incarnate. A land of green, wet and fertile; a land of flowers, and springs, and swamp; a land of life’s abundance to host Abundance come to life.
There is no bleakness in our midwinter, just a creation bubbling, and buzzing, and bursting in grateful anticipation of Emmanuel.
God-with-us in snowy field and bare branch, in green palm and grinning gator, wherever you reveal yourself, reveal yourself as love. O come, O come . . . Amen.
Vince Amlin is Associate Minister at the United Church of Gainesville, Gainesville, Florida.