And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
Advent [meaning “coming”], to the Church Fathers, was the right naming of the season when light and life are fading.
They urged the faithful to set aside four weeks to fast, give, and pray—all ways to strip down, to let the bared soul recall what it knows beneath its fear of the dark, to know what Jesus called “the one thing necessary”: that there is One who is the source of all life, One who comes to be with us and in us, even, especially, in darkness and death.
One who brings a new beginning
I hope it isn’t difficult to understand why I’m beginning the Advent season reflecting on darkness. I’m not trying to be a spoilsport, but once Thanksgiving is over, we in the United States are rushed headlong into the Christmas season.
Yet Advent was once (and still can be) a time of waiting, a time of hoping without knowing, a time of emptying so that we can be filled by the divine Presence.
Though you may be wrapping gifts, planning special meals, and spending time with family and friends, I hope you will also take time to allow the Advent darkness to do its work as well.
Not knowing or uncertainty is a kind of darkness that many people find unbearable.
Those who demand certitude out of life will insist on it even if it doesn’t fit the facts.
Logic and truth have nothing to do with it. If you require certitude, you will surround yourself with your own conclusions and dismiss or ignore any evidence to the contrary.
The very meaning of faith stands in stark contrast to this mindset.
We have to live in exquisite, terrible humility before reality.
In this space, God gives us a spirit of questing, a desire for understanding. In some ways it is like learning to “see in the dark.”
We can’t be certain of what’s in front of us, but with some time and patience, our eyes adjust, and we can make the next right move.
Jesus Christ the Apple Tree
The tree of life my soul hath seen,
Laden with fruit and always green;
The trees of nature fruitless be,
Compared with Christ the Apple Tree.
His beauty doth all things excel,
By faith I know but ne’er can tell
The glory which I now can see,
In Jesus Christ the Appletree.
For happiness I long have sought,
And pleasure dearly I have bought;
I missed of all but now I see
‘Tis found in Christ the Appletree.
I’m weary with my former toil –
Here I will sit and rest awhile,
Under the shadow I will be,
Of Jesus Christ the Appletree.
With great delight I’ll make my stay,
There’s none shall fright my soul away;
Among the sons of men I see
There’s none like Christ the Appletree.
I’ll sit and eat this fruit divine,
It cheers my heart like spirit’al wine;
And now this fruit is sweet to me,
That grows on Christ the Appletree.
This fruit doth make my soul to thrive,
It keeps my dying faith alive;
Which makes my soul in haste to be
With Jesus Christ the Appletree.
“We plant seeds that will flower as results in our lives,
so best to remove the weeds of anger, avarice, envy and doubt,
that peace and abundance may manifest for all.”