Tonight is the windiest night of the year. Our home is locked tight, doors and windows and shutters, but gusty fingers pry their way into the smallest cracks. The chimes which hang on our front porch play a constant A minor, more winter-warning than summer-song.
The leftover leaves, the yellow- and red- and orange-turned-brown, have lost their grips and are tumbling into a wispy maelstrom, miles from home, months from belonging. Yet, despite this chaos, this ordained destruction, in some last conscious effort never perceived by my schedule, my binge-watching, or my quest for shade-grown espresso, each leaf cries out to return to branch and trunk and root, to feel sun and drink water, to go back to the beginning, when everything was green and full of flowers and fruit.
When everything was new.
The hand of the Lord was on me, and he brought me out by the Spirit of the Lord and set me in the middle of a valley; it was full of bones. He led me back and forth among them, and I saw a great many bones on the floor of the valley, bones that were very dry. He asked me, “Son of man, can these bones live?”
I said, “Sovereign Lord, you alone know.”
Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.’”
So I prophesied as I was commanded. And as I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone. I looked, and tendons and flesh appeared on them and skin covered them, but there was no breath in them.
Then he said to me, “Prophesy to the breath; prophesy, son of man, and say to it, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Come, breath, from the four winds and breathe into these slain, that they may live.’” So I prophesied as he commanded me, and breath entered them; they came to life and stood up on their feet—a vast army.
—The Words of Ezekiel, a Prophet of Israel (NIV)
The bones, they make me wonder. When Christ appears, when his “not-yet” returning joins with his “already” return, will every leaf that ever fell from a tree, ugly and brittle and brown, will they all rise to life again? Will the Spirit of God jump like a child into the countless piles of decomposition and send them flying back into the trees, green as ever? Will they all be made new?
“Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.”
—The Words of Jesus, the Christ (NIV)
This week begins Advent, four weeks of preparation for the coming of the Christ, but not only as a child, not only in expectation of Christmas and the newborn Messiah. All four weeks are especially set aside to remember the second coming of Christ—yes, the kingdom he will establish when “he shall come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,” (BCP), but also the re-incarnation of his spirit, always and forever in us, “unto all those also that love his appearing.” (St, Paul, to Timothy)
As Rabindranath spoke in his poem:
Have you not heard his silent steps?
He comes, comes, ever comes.
“…As I was prophesying, there was a noise, a rattling sound, and the bones came together, bone to bone.”
The rattling of bones, the rustling of leaves, the clanking of wood against metal in A minor: each one inanimate until the four winds blow and move things, even our own souls, the souls of the elect.
Oh, Lord, only you know if these dry bones within us can live again. Only your Wind, only your Breath, only your Spirit can heal the wounds that have slain us. Only you, creator God, can make us new again.
Come, Lord Jesus. Come and breathe your resurrection into us so that we will know that you are the Lord. Come, Lord Jesus. Maranatha!
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.