At this darker time of the year, the trees are skeletal.

What you notice first, now, is not foliage but structure, not ornament but underpinning, not rounded canopy but stark, contorted trunks and wild, scraggy branches, their every effort to reach the sun traced against the sky.

Not every creature reveals the effort of its growth so starkly or so long, but we do, sometimes for a season, like deciduous trees, sometimes, with humility, for a lifetime.

There is a beauty in this splendid struggle to grow, to stretch towards the sun, not in isolation but together, rooted among so many other trees and shrubs. In the woods, the trees shape each other. So too, we shape each other, growing in community, in family, in every relationship with others.

Wintering trees remind us of the wild beauty of our own struggles to find light, sustenance, and meaning. We seek the light of Truth, the food that lasts, the living water that is God’s only Son.

When we see the skeletons of the trees in Advent, we should not wonder that our Lord died on the wood of a tree felled two thousand years ago, its struggle to reach the sun finally realized and completed in the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus, God’s only Son, our Emmanuel.

Come, Lord Jesus! May we never be ashamed of our soul’s yearning for you and our daily efforts to follow you, Mary’s precious child, the Son of God, our Morning Star, the Light of all the World.