You don’t need candlelight and fireside glow to make Christmas happen. Trees, ornaments, gifts, and all of it are splendid embellishments. Not necessary, but so very nice. It’s Him…It’s priceless to discover the pleasure of His company…May your home know something of all this glory during these days.
In the silence of a midwinter dusk, there is a sound so faint that for all you can tell it may be only the sound of the silence itself. You hold your breath to listen. You are aware of the beating of your heart. The extraordinary thing that is about to happen is matched only by the extraordinary moment just before it happens. Advent is the name of that moment.
Celebrating Advent means learning how to wait. Waiting is an art which our impatient age has forgotten. We want to pluck the fruit before it has had time to ripen. Greedy eyes are soon disappointed when what they saw as luscious fruit is sour to the taste. In disappointment and disgust they throw it away. The fruit, full of promise rots on the ground. It is rejected without thanks by disappointed hands. The blessedness of waiting is lost on those who cannot wait, and the fulfillment of promise is never theirs. They want quick answers to the deepest questions of life and miss the value of those times of anxious waiting, seeking with patient uncertainties until the answers come. They lose the moment when the answers are revealed in dazzling clarity.
We’re part of God’s much bigger plan for the whole world. Just like God’s Son arrived here, so did you. And after Jesus arrived, God whispered to all of humanity . . . “It’s your move.” Heaven’s been leaning over the rails in the same way ever since you got here, waiting to see what you’ll do with your life.
Anticipation lifts the heart. Desire is created to be fulfilled – perhaps not all at once, more likely in slow stages. Isaiah uttered his prophetic words about the renewal of the natural Creation into a wilderness of spiritual barrenness and thirst. For him, and for many other Old Testament seers, the vacuum of dry indifference into which he spoke was not yet a place of fulfillment. Yet the promise of God through this human mouthpiece (and the word “promise” always holds a kind of certainty) was verdant with hope, a kind of greenness and glory. A softening of hard-heartedness, a lively expectation, would herald the coming of Messiah. And once again, in this season of Advent, the same promise for the same Anointed One is coming closer.
Advent is set (in the northern hemisphere) in the season of the year when days get shorter and hours of darkness get longer. Hope is a reminder and a promise that even if we do not feel very hopeful, even if our life feels as dark as the long nights, even if we cannot see or imagine a way forward, we are not alone. God is with us, even if we can’t see or feel God. It is often at these times of greatest need, when we cannot see a way ahead, that we discover that God is with us, often unnoticed by us until we look back on that time. To live in the faith that even in the darkest times, God is there, closer even than our breath, is the hope at the heart of Christian faith and the hope we return to each Advent.
Since it [Advent] comes at winter time, fire is a fitting sign to help us celebrate Advent… If Christ is to come more fully into our lives this Christmas, if God is to become really incarnate for us, then fire will have to be present in our prayer. Our worship and devotion will have to stoke the kind of fire in our souls that can truly change our hearts. Ours is a great responsibility not to waste this Advent time.
Take time to be aware that in the very midst of our busy preparations for the celebration of Christ’s birth in ancient Bethlehem, Christ is reborn in the Bethlehems of our homes and daily lives. Take time, slow down, be still, be awake to the Divine Mystery that looks so common and so ordinary yet is wondrously present. An old abbot was fond of saying, “The devil is always the most active on the highest feast days.” The supreme trick of Old Scratch is to have us so busy decorating, preparing food, practicing music and cleaning in preparation for the feast of Christmas that we actually miss the coming of Christ. Hurt feelings, anger, impatience, injured egos—the list of clouds that busyness creates to blind us to the birth can be long, but it is familiar to us all.
Is this Christmas season going to be a painful one for you? Share your pain and struggle with Him. Invite Him and His comfort into your grief.