Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Have you ever put damp wood on a fire? It doesn’t really give off light or heat — mostly it gives off smoke. By contrast, when you put dry wood on a fire, it leaps into flame.
The season of Advent is meant to be a time for the “wood” of our souls to dry, so they can leap into flame with Christ at Christmas. But it’s hard in the current culture to be patient. Everyone wants to jump right into celebrating Christmas as soon as Thanksgiving is over. Spiritually, that’s just like throwing damp wood on a fire.
In a treatise on the value of patience, St. Cyprian (210-258 A.D.) wrote, “Faith and hope are the very meaning of our being Christians, but if faith and hope are to bear their fruit, patience is necessary.” To help us enter the patience of Advent, let’s consider two things.
First, think about the role of silence in conversation. Often we’re uncomfortable with silence, and we rush to fill it with words. When we do that, however, we can prevent the conversation from running deeper. When we wait patiently, when we let the silence do its work, it’s like allowing time for the “wood” of our thoughts and feelings to dry so that the conversation can leap into flame from a deeper place. Waiting patiently in silence is a human skill we need to learn, and when we do it bears good fruit. The same is true of Advent and the spiritual life!
Second, think about how God uses time in salvation history. Throughout this week we hear beautiful descriptions from Isaiah about what will happen on the day of the Lord. On that day: “the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills” (2:2). “The Lord of hosts … will destroy death forever” (25:8). “They will sing this song in the land of Judah: a strong city have we” (26:1). “The deaf shall hear … the eyes of the blind shall see” (29:18). “The light of the moon will be like that of the sun and the light of the sun will be seven times greater like the light of seven days” (30:26). What’s coming is beautiful! But remember: none of these things happened immediately! God allowed the “wood” of history to dry, so that it could leap into flame at the time of Christ. That’s worth waiting for. The same is true of Advent and Christmas.
Jesus told us to let our light shine — not smoke! — for all to see. If we’re going to leap into flame with Christ at Christmas, we need to let the wood dry patiently during Advent.