Story, Value, and Becoming More Real
share post

I Heard the Cry

December 6, 2023

Christina Brown

It was the trees – I could almost feel their desperation. My children and I were huddled inside on a raw December day, nervously peering through the windowpanes as a windstorm picked up. I’d never witnessed trees struggle so valiantly against the wind – their trunks were bent over so far that they looked frightened, as if, unseen beneath their fleshy bark, their spines were breaking, splinter by splinter, in effort to remain rooted.

I shuddered and turned away from the window. I was too unnerved – I had to find my husband – his hugs were always so calming. The kids and I had just begun our trek to the other side of the house when we met him coming to find us. We greeted each other in a drafty room whose attic was gabled right above our ceiling. But before I could get my hug, a massive ‘thud’ sounded above us. Panicked, I locked eyes with my husband. 

“That was our roof!” I breathed.

“No, it couldn’t be….” 

I rushed into our living area where the windows overlooked the gable and yes, one of our three ancient pines had snapped, and the top half of its severed spine lay dormant on the sloping roof. 


“What, Mama, what?” my children demanded, panic in their voices as they clambered on chairs to look out the window. My husband stared in disbelief.

“The tree, kids – it snapped!” 

My daughter began to cry, and we all gathered in close – my husband and I exchanging worried glances as we watched the outside world thrash in chaos. 

The storm knocked out our power, so after the winds died down, I got in my car to drive to a nearby pharmacy for flashlight batteries. But as I turned off my street into the surrounding neighborhood, I gasped; tree after tree lay lifeless – roots ripped from the ground with clods of earth still clinging desperately to their fallen comrades as though defeat was inadmissible. Others had crashed through windows, caved in roofs, obliterated fences and barricaded driveways. 

A lump began to form in the back of my throat. I was horrified. It was as if some hidden bastion nestled safely within the hills of my soul had been exposed – a bastion that had relied on the comforting beauty of the 130-year-old neighborhood’s magnificent homes, ancient trees, and glorious gardens. I felt like the Ent, Treebeard, in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings whose journey into Isengard found him standing on its outer edge, gaping in stunned silence at the massacred forest spanning the valley below him as he stammered, “Many of these trees were my friends!” 

But I hardly had a chance to mourn. The next few days brought a brutal temperature drop and the power outages throughout the city continued as power companies worked around the clock to repair the damage. Ours was out for days. We had planned our annual Christmas party for the coming weekend, but there was no hope now. We sent out the cancellation with heavy hearts. Celebration had always been the way I battled despair. Not this year.

We endured the cold nights for a few days, but after two days with no sign of restoration, we abandoned the plan and took up an offer from a precious friend to stay in her home. 

After six days of power outage, we finally returned home. A few days later, my sister flew in for Christmas… then promptly got sick. Our spirits were low. 

Tired as we were on Christmas morning, we were determined to have our small Christmas brunch of gingerbread cake, sausages, egg casserole and mimosas. But as I set the table, I felt like our little ensemble was missing something. Perhaps I still felt the need to battle a lingering disconsolance with the weapon of celebration.

Though our living room had been restored to a toasty warmth, this morning it was a little stuffy from overactive radiators attempting to redeem themselves after the cold snap, so I stepped outside into the brisk weather. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for, but I was determined to find it.

Then I saw the pile of dismembered tree branches along the drive outside our little gate, forlornly awaiting a tree-shredder, and I knew.

I spent my next twenty minutes on a dogged pilgrimage as I approached the carnage heap, tree shears in hand, to sort through the discarded limbs of a massive Blue Spruce. When I returned to the warmth of my living room I was greeted with the meaty fragrance of frying sausage and the robust melody of carols ebbing from a blue-tooth speaker in the corner of the room. I smiled and walked to the table. Under my arm I carried a bounty of broken boughs, readied for redemption.

While my husband finished cooking, my children, my sister and I arranged the branches on the table, weaving leftover ribbon in and around the green needles and filling the empty spaces with all the candles we could find, borrowing nearby red, green and gold ornament balls to nestle in and amongst the needled foliage. 

As we all prayed and feasted, something felt right; redemption was tangibly at the table with us and hope stirred quietly, incarnate in the form of few broken branches. 

‘All creation groans’ (see Romans 8:22) for the coming of its King, and those whole two weeks leading up to Christmas all I had to do was look outside and I heard it; I heard the cry of creation begging its Creator to come, heal, and make all things new. 

Though homes were eventually mended and power-grids were restored, the trees were the unhealable victims; re-planting century-old trees is an impossible feat. 

Matthew Sleeth, author of Reforesting the Faith, encourages Christians to take notice of the trees around us; their significance in Scripture and the truths they represent therein are markers of hope. I think he’s onto something.

Damage to the world in which we dwell is unavoidable. But marking it – mourning it and memorializing it with an eye towards redemption and restoration? Christians can do that. 

That afternoon, as the smiles and laughter and warmth encircled our table, the Christmas-tide truth resonated deep in my bones: Adam and Eve broke their relationship with God by way of a tree, but God incarnate came to hang upon another tree – He brought beauty back from broken boughs and bones alike, restoring communion to a creation aching for healing and hope.

The same precious friend who invited us to warm ourselves by her hearth during the frozen wreckage of the windstorm also encouraged me to compose a liturgy – a prayer to recite when I encounter the decimation of creation. So here I am, two years later, doing just that. Perhaps now I can tuck it away in my proverbial pocket so that at another time, in another place, when destruction ravages the beautiful ecosystem in which we dwell, I can return to it in a quiet corner of my home and unfold my heart in prayer. I offer it here, this Christmas, to you, dear reader, in the hopes that it might find a place in your own pocket when you find your heart aching amidst the decimation of Creation. Merry Christmas.

Liturgy for the Decimation of Creation: 

O God of Creation, hear our plea! 

You are both Creator and Savior to your creation – You love it and know it as you know Yourself. But its wounds are many, and all too often they fester and decay. Mountains yearn to sing, and hills ache with an unsung melody of mending. The sun longs to blaze across the sky in a thousand symphonies of color, but fires, floods, winds and waves crush the tender goodness of your world, laying waste to the fragile blossoms of goodness that bravely penetrate the barren landscape. Ashes rise to the empty skies and embers burn in the heart of the woods; trees whose limbs have long waited to clap their hands have crashed to the forest floor, boughs broken like bones, bark charred like flesh.

You called us to care for this beautiful world, but our hearts ache as we gaze helplessly upon forces we cannot control. Therefore hear us, Lord – hear Creation groan as we lift our voices in chorus to beg for the renewal of all things. In your abundant love, mark this decimation with the promise of restoration. Renew this place – redeem this loss – that we may, at long last, join all creation in the song of praise we were born to proclaim: “the Great Mending has come!” 

The featured image is courtesy of Elisa via Unsplash. We are grateful for her generosity.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

  1. Carolyn says:

    “He brought beauty back from broken boughs and bones alike, restoring communion to a creation aching for healing and hope.” I read this line silently, then out loud, and felt my throat close up… Your words sing, Christina, and so does the hope they bring.

A Field Guide to Cultivating ~ Essentials to Cultivating a Whole Life, Rooted in Christ, and Flourishing in Fellowship

Enjoy our gift to you as our Welcome to Cultivating! Discover the purpose of The Cultivating Project, and how you might find a "What, you too?" experience here with this fellowship of makers!

Receive your complimentary e-book

Explore the

Editions Archive


organized for ease by author and category.

View Our Editions Archive