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Trees prepare us for fall. They subtly, slowly, change their leaf colors from green to yellow to orange to red. Leaves fall to the ground slowly, on their own, or nudged by the gentle breezes or the weight of raindrops gathering on them.

Ginko trees, however, tease us. Their leaves remain green, with no sign that they recognize it's fall. Until ginko dump day. Within 24 hours a ginko tree will go from green to yellow to bare, leaving a thick blanket of yellow leaves on the driveway, street, and yards. All the ginko trees in the same area seem to dump on the same day. The date varies from year to year, but trust me, sometime within the next ten days it will happen.

There is no preparation, only a guessing game. Do we rake the yard now, or wait until the dump? If only the tree would give us a hint as to its dump date so we could make plans.

In our church year, we are approaching the time of preparation, known as Advent. It's the time we prepare ourselves, our hearts, our minds, sometimes our homes and surroundings, for Christmas, the coming of the baby Jesus.

God has always provided plenty of time for preparation. God prepared Zechariah and Elizabeth for the miracle that would be their son John. John himself would prepare the world around him for the coming of the Messiah. God prepared Joseph and Mary for the miracle that would be Jesus. God even prepared the family and friends of Jesus for the miracle that would be the death and resurrection of Jesus.

God has always provided time for preparation. God gave Adam and Eve a paradise and let them know there would be consequences if they disobeyed the simplest of instructions. God prepared Abraham and Sarah to be the forebears of a great and numerous nation. God prepared the nations of Israel and Judah with knowledge of how to defeat their enemies.

God doesn't keep things hidden. God lets us know what the expectations are, and what the consequences will be if we choose not to listen and follow God's word. God fully prepares us for what is to come.

Advent prepares us for the annual journey through the life, teachings, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

It is now the beginning of November. Does this theme of Advent seem premature? After all, Advent doesn't start until after Thanksgiving. The modern Christian church celebrates advent beginning with the four Sundays before Christmas. This year, the beginning of Advent is December 3.

Historically, there are many dates to recognize the beginning of Advent. The early Celtic church recognized the start of Advent as November 11, the feast of St. Martin. November 16 marks the 40 days before Christmas, mirroring the 40 days of Lent. November 27 recognizes the full month before and including Christmas. So, historically, you are welcome to start observing Advent, and the time or preparation for Christ's coming this Sunday, or next Wednesday, or the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, or on December 3, the fourth Sunday before Christmas Day.

Pick your day, but be prepared.

Christmas is coming. And everything that it prepares us for.

- Ann Warner

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