The desert. What grows in the desert? John the Baptist “appeared” in the desert, the scripture story tells us, and begins wreaking havoc, the likes of which have not been seen for generations. He dresses funny; he eats peculiar things; he bellows like a crazy man about getting ready for the coming One.
All that time in the wilderness has caused some seeds to germinate in a people hungry for evidence of the presence and activity of God in the world. They swarm out of the cities and villages to gather around John and hear the call. “Get ready! Get your hearts and your actions lined up together! Heaven is drawing very near!”
John calls for a change of heart. He speaks of a God who cares and holds people accountable for their thoughts and actions. This God holds out the offer of ultimate justice in a world that seems haphazard at best in its morals. So change your ways! Change your hearts!
What is growing in your heart’s wilderness this Advent season? Where is an unexpected shoot sprouting from a region of your heart that you had thought defunct? To what is the voice of the prophet calling you? To more consistent quietness, meditation, and prayer? Are you preparing for the presence of the Holy by speaking more pointedly about truth when you encounter it? Are you singing or painting or opening your life and your home to the hospitality of the Holy?
The desert is wild and sometimes desolate, but it is certainly not empty. Life thrives there—it’s just not always obvious. Maybe this is your day to hear John’s call, “Wake up!”
We know that you wait for us in the desert, Jesus of Nazareth. Awaken us and teach us to follow. Amen.
The Old Testament roots of Advent hope are cast in royal imagery. The psalm marks the king as one whose work is to bring justice to the weak. The new king makes a new world possible. The Gospel reading is both invitation and warn- ing that we must make concrete decisions to reorder our life in ways appropriate to God’s new intention. Characteristically Paul makes the grand, sweeping claim: The new behavior appropriate to God’s new governance is that the strong and the weak, the haves and have-nots, relate to each other in new faithfulness. Advent is spent pondering speci c decisions about bringing our daily life into sync with God’s rule.
• Read Isaiah 11:1-10. When do you allow yourself “fallow” time? How does that time of “resting” nurture your fruitful- ness?
• Read Psalm 72:1-7, 18-19. This prayer for the king expresses the qualities that the people desire in a leader. What would you add to the list?
• Read Romans 15:4-13. Paul notes that Christ welcomed you for the glory of God. Consider the last several months: Whom have you welcomed for the glory of God?
• Read Matthew 3:1-12. What is growing in your heart’s wil- derness this Advent season?
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