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On one of our recent road trips, Dave and I were driving along 131 and all of a sudden near Kalkaska a tree emerged at the side of the road. A very tall tree. A very different tree. A tree decorated with hundreds of shoes. Shoes hanging off every branch I could see. A tree dripping with shoes.

So, what does one do when one confronts something so incredibly odd? I pulled out my phone and googled “shoe tree.” And we read all the stories we could find as we drove along. You can even find maps locating shoe trees across the country! Who knew?

I found myself asking, why would people throw a perfectly fine pair of shoes up into the branches of a tree? Well, for many it seems that this is a way to mark life changes. Grow out of a pair of shoes…..visit the tree, tie the laces of each shoe together, and throw the pair way up into the branches. Graduate high school…..visit the tree and toss your shoes up. Major life events marked by decorating a tree with something tangible. Leave behind a pair of shoes and as you leave the tree you walk into a new way of being.

That tree got me to thinking. We mark major events in the church as well. As I read the stories of the shoe trees, it became very clear that adding your shoes to a particular tree is really a liturgical action. And it seems to be very meaningful for a lot of people.

As Advent winds its way to Christmas, our theme turns once again to newness. The reality of Emmanuel, “God with us.” We mark this event liturgically in a lot of ways. But I wonder, how might we deepen our experience of Advent and Christmas?

I’d like to offer some questions for reflection as you move forward into this newness. What is the growing edge in your life within the church and in your relationship with God? What is the newness that God is calling you to? What might be getting in the way of truly embracing that newness? What do you need to leave behind in order to move into a new way of being? What might be a good representation – a symbol of that which needs to be left behind? How might you tangibly leave that symbol behind so you are better able to walk into and through your growing edge? How will you recognize when you have embraced that newness faithfully? How might you honor that newness?

May you recognize and embrace newness in your life. May you walk confidently with God into new ways of being that honor that newness.