Today a silver birch that grew in our neighbour's front garden and stretched over our shared semi-detached houses has come down. It took fifty years to mature and added great character to our corner of the road.
Our neighbour's (who are good friends) took great pains to explain why they had to take this drastic step. First, they explained how badly pruned it had been over many years resulting, in their words, in a very thick trunk with an ugly dollop of branches on top! "You've got to admit it is not very attractive!' they said. Second, its root system was beginning to damage the pavement. Third, others agreed that it really would be no loss to the road and the time for action was now!
Part of us is really sad to see it go. Admittedly it could have been more attractive and the odd way successive generations had hacked at its branches did make for an unnatural tangle of thick stumps mid-air. Yet in its graceless way it did show some beauty. It's sad to hack down living things. Yet, I remember the Advent warning of John the Baptist that every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire (Matthew 3: 12). Sometimes you need to act and the good news is that our neighbours are going to plant a young tree in its place. ( Also, we shall have more light reaching our solar panels!) So, we shall have new young life to watch - and prune more effectively.
I thought of several lessons watching them saw it down in less than a morning. But I am encouraged by the thought of new life that could be more beautiful still. And that seems a great lesson as we prepare for the coming of Christ.