SUNDAY, DECEMBER 6
Mark 1:1-8 (NRSV)
The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”
John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
FINDING PEACE IN THE WILDERNESS
This pandemic has seemed like a time in the wilderness, hasn’t it? We have wandered through an unknown and unexplored territory, with no clear signs to guide our path. The distancing isolation has often felt like an empty desert, devoid of many of our usual routines and relationships. One definition from Merriam-Webster describes wilderness as “a bewildering situation,” which serves as a fitting description for the year. A vaccine is on the horizon, but for now, we must remain in our wilderness time.
Where will we find our Advent peace in this wilderness?
The story of John the Baptizer serves us well. As Richard Niell Donovan notes:
John was raised in the wilderness (Luke 1:80), was called by God in the wilderness (Luke 3:2), preached in the wilderness (Mark 1:4), and was most likely imprisoned and died in the wilderness… (Josephus, Ant. xviii 5.2). John’s mission was to prepare the way for the Messiah—to make his paths straight (1:3). He did this by preaching in the wilderness, where he attracted great crowds, by calling people to repentance, by baptizing, and by heralding the one who was to come.1
And now John comes to us, calling us to prepare for this One who is to come.
God is so very present in our lives but can remain unnoticed because of our distraction, busyness, or complacency. This wilderness experience can become the barren place in which we may more clearly hear John’s cry. The wilderness may enable us to more attentively heed John’s call for repentance; to turn from those things that are not of God, and to turn to more of those things that are of God and our true selves in God. The wilderness is where Jesus chose to go before beginning his earthly ministry. Other saints have also chosen to practice this type of desert spirituality, leaving behind comfort, normalcy, and busyness in order to deepen in awareness and love of God.
We did not choose this wilderness, but we can choose to embrace it as a sacred time of desert spirituality. I have heard from others that the pandemic is changing priorities, clarifying purposes, and revealing the beauty of simpler lifestyles. We may discover more about ourselves and our purpose through our slower pace, simpler ways, and deeper compassion for others. We may discover more about God’s power and love through our surrender of earthly securities, self-sufficiency, and comfortable normalcy. We may become like the Israelites in Exodus 16:10, who “looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the Lord appeared in the cloud.“
Today we find our Advent peace in this wilderness, as we turn to God with greater awareness of God’s presence and love. We find our Advent peace as we invite God to make our paths clearer and straighter, to help our integrity become more God-centered and true. Christ Jesus is on the horizon – and thank you, God – Christ Jesus is already with us. We then find our Advent peace in knowing that even if all else is stripped away, the one who is more powerful remains with us, shows his love for us, and guides us through this wilderness and beyond.
Our reading for Tuesday will be Isaiah 40:1-11.
Bible verses taken from https://www.biblegateway.com/