December -- 2019
There is a story of a rabbi welcoming a group of Confirmation students who were visiting his synagogue. Much to the pastor's chagrin, one of the young flock asked the rabbi, "Is it true that you do not believe that Jesus is the Messiah?" "That is true," the rabbi answered.
Trying to smooth things over, the pastor added, "You're still waiting for the Messiah." The rabbi responded, "No." The pastor was surprised. The rabbi clarified, "We're not just waiting. We're preparing."
John the Baptist's whole being was vibrating with the conviction that the day of the Lord was at hand. With his prophetic intuition, he was absolutely sure that the long-awaited One was about to be revealed. But John was also questioning whether anyone would notice. The people were so preoccupied, too filled with themselves, too busy, too satisfied. The people did not act as if they needed anything more. They did not act as if they hoped for anything different. John sensed that he had a critical role to play in the Lord's plan. Someone had to help the people prepare for the coming of the Lord.
So, John journeyed to the outskirts of Jerusalem and began to preach. He called them to the desert: a place of stark contrasts between light and dark, hot and cold, hard and soft, a place of simplicity with few distractions. And there in the desert, John preached his Gospel: repent, prepare and hope.
We too need to travel to the desert. We are busy and preoccupied. Moreover, we feel an intense division in our nation, in our communities, even in our families. John calls us into the desert to get away from the noise and the frenzy. John preaches to us to spend some minutes each day in prayer, to find periods of silence to center down, to take some time apart - turning away from the unnecessary things of the world that clamor for our pocketbooks, to find that inner place of quiet and solitude. God asks us to give our attention to preparing... preparing the way of the Lord so that when God moves within us in new ways throughout this season of Advent we are ready to recognize the Holy.
May our journeys into the desert be healing.