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Pastor's Column

Advent as a Desert Experience

Pastor’s Column

2nd Sunday of Advent

December 4, 2016

A voice of one crying out in the wilderness:

Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths!

Isaiah speaking of John the Baptist in Luke 3:1-6

Advent actually is a kind of spiritual wilderness journey. The desert can be a very hostile place for the unprepared, but it can also be a place of great beauty. It is not for nothing that John the Baptist cries out from the wilderness. In fact, in order to hear God, there has to be a place of wilderness within us. God most frequently speaks in the desert areas of our lives.

What does this mean in practice? Who are the people that we see hanging around Jesus in the New Testament? Who actually comes out to hear John the Baptist? Aren't they the people with needs, who know there's something missing in their lives, who need to be healed, people who know they have a need for God?

Periodically, God will clear some space in our lives by creating a desert in which he can speak. Many of us, not understanding God's ways, fear these desert places in our lives; but it is precisely here that God wishes to speak to us most clearly, in our needs or wants, our hopes and desires, in what we lack and in what we need. Without these desert places, without those areas of want and need, God’s actions can be blocked because we are too full.

The Lord knows that we need to be purified in this life. We can get too attached to certain things; our desires and needs can become disordered. God must intervene. So what does he do? He leads us out into the desert, where he speaks to our heart. What does this mean in real life? How does he do this? We have a sudden reversal of fortune; we have a loss; we are overwhelmed with things we can't cope with; we get sick. God is waiting to connect with us here, precisely because we are most open to him at these times of our lives.

But Advent is a different kind of desert than this! Advent is a voluntary desert; we don’t have to enter in; we can stay outside! But the risk of not entering into the spirit of Advent is that we will become as artificial as many of the Christmas trees that are displayed at this time of year. You want something more this Christmas? Or do you think you can find your heart’s desire by shopping? I doubt it. That yearning in your heart for something more is the Lord speaking to you in the desert of your soul. That desire to change your life, to be the man or woman of God that you are called to be, to enter into a deeper relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ in the Scriptures and the church and in your heart -- this is God speaking in your soul. John the Baptist is crying out in the wilderness inside you to prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths! The Lord wants to get into many hearts and souls this Advent in a deeper way, if only we will let him lead us into the desert with John.

Father Gary

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