The Yellowstone Fire of 1988 remains one of the most dramatic, if not dynamic natural disasters in the history of the United States. When all was said and done, the statistics told a gut-wrenching story. Consider the outcome:

  • Nearly 1.2 million acres were scorched.
  • 36% of Yellowstone Park’s 2,221,800 acres were burned.
  • 67 structures were destroyed.
  • The estimated property damage totaled more than 3 million dollars.
  • Surveys found that 345 elk (of an estimated 40 to 50 thousand), 36 deer, 12 moose, 6 black bears, and 9 bison died in greater Yellowstone Park as a direct result of the fires.
  • A few small fish-kills occurred as a result of either heated water or dropping fire retardant on the streams.
  • Other surveys revealed that less than 1% of soils were heated enough to burn below-ground plant seeds and roots.

[source: National Park Service records data …

At the time, many people thought that this was the worst possible thing that could have happened to this vast, beautiful wilderness. Today, however, we know that out of this “tragic” fire, new life is emerging.

From burned-out stumps, green shoots appeared as new forests began emerging. From scorched prairies, new grasses began to grow. From poisoned rivers, lakes, and streams, new habitats began supporting new life.

In this season of Advent, a season of waiting, hope and anticipation, these ancient words from the book of Isaiah point us to the same hope of new things rising out of old.

“A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. The spirit of the LORD shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. His delight shall be in the fear of the LORD.”

The hope of Advent reminds us that that from the scorched earth of our relational terrain emerges the promise for new growth as we nurture new ways of caring and serving;

The promise of Advent assures us that in spite of the bridges we’ve burned there remains the power and promise of forgiveness.

The hope of Advent reminds us that from the poison we’ve let seep into the lives of others, we can grow into new ways of communicating grace and love.

The promise of Advent assures us that the damage done by destructive arguments that burst into flame in the heat of the moment will be soothed by the cool water of the spirit of wisdom and understanding;

The hope of Advent reminds us that in spite of the seeds of discontent and self-centeredness that choke the roots of healthy lives, the soil of life can be delightfully renewed.

The promise of Advent assures us that even out of the devastating losses in our lives comes the promise that we will be found, that we will be filled with hope and promise and new life!




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