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Imogen de la Bere goes hunting for Christmas trees in the Welsh woods – and comes home with an unexpected treasure.

Prepare yew the way


hen it comes to being prepared for Christmas, this year we win the prize. In early October, in balmy autumn weather, we three intrepid Christian folk found ourselves slogging through a Welsh bog and up an almost impassable crag, in the wake of a crazed tree-enthusiast. This man of great eminence, height and age, cried with a voice of military grandeur: “They’re up here, my Christmas trees, I know they are. Just a little further! Oh, gosh, I have fallen over. Up I get. Here we go! Not far now!” – right to the top of the hill. I didn’t get that far, but I’m assured the hundred trees for our Christmas Tree Festival are growing somewhere in that craggy forest. I am also assured they can be felled, dragged down the crag, hauled over the bog, netted and piled high, ready for our collection. This assumes that, weather permitting, we can get a large truck far enough in to pick them up. But of course it will all happen. Our

magnificent vendor has made it his mission. He passionately desires to supply us with trees for our festival. Nothing will stand in his way. Neither infirmity, nor foul weather, nor logistical impossibilities. And who are we to doubt his faith? As I write, we have done the risk assessment, and everything says: don’t do it. But we will, because faith must match faith, and hope answers hope. After all, we Christians live by faith and hope. Reason doesn’t enter in. This grand old man of the trees is a huge player in city money. He chanced on forests as a tax break 30 years ago. The tax break has long evaporated, but his passion for trees has grown to the point where he cares nothing for money, and everything for trees. He took us on a conducted tour of his forests, with sweeping gestures, pointing out, in fruity tones, the thousands of trees of this or that species, and how well grown they were after 30 years.

And next, he said, he would fell the spruce and larch, and plant in their place native Welsh trees: the oak and rowan, the holly, juniper, ash and yew. And give them to the future. Faith and hope. Love, too, because you can’t embark on such a mission unless you love those who come after you. We thought we were doing rather well in our planning for Christmas, but we heard and saw a sermon that inspired and humbled us, in those Welsh hills. Prepare ye the way of the Lord. Imogen de la Bere is a Kiwi writer, living in St Albans, England.

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Anglican Taonga Advent 2014