The Biblical authors knew all about the desert as they were a desert people. What does the desert symbolize? Many things: confrontation with our sins; seeing our dark sides; realizing our dependency on God; ordering our priorities in life; simplifying and getting back to basics. All our desert prophets and travelers had to spend painful time there—living a stripped down life before being ready for their mission—think of John the Baptist. But in such deserts flowers will bloom. John becomes the forerunner of the Messiah—as other prophets bloom and enter into their missions (ie: Abraham, Moses and the Israelites, Joseph in Egypt, Paul in Arabia and of course, Jesus.).
God is calling us into the desert to prepare us for our mission: for the coming of Jesus into our hearts and minds. Hard to do in these times and this place—this season of preparation is certainly not a desert place for quiet contemplation and communion with God as we prepare for the celebration of His coming. Our secular expectations don’t allow us to get quiet, don’t let us simplify and get back to basics as we are called to do.
St. Paul’s prayer for the Philippians today (and for all of us) is to ask for the knowledge that will make love overflow; for the wisdom found in keenness of perception; for the insight and discernment to put faith into practice—which will further our desert mission and God’s reign in the here and now. A great example of this is the Blessed Virgin Mary’s “Yes” to God heard on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. I suggest we try to practice simplicity as we head toward our holy-day celebrations. Personally, I am all about practice—whether we are speaking of practicing our faith, or a musical instrument, or another language—the list is endless. I believe everything we do is about practicing in order to be the best version of ourselves that God intends us to be. This prayer by St. Paul is always succinct, but most especially at this busy time of year when our lives are dictated by secular demands. This prayer of St. Paul is a worth repeating and praying, and it is great advice to follow and practice if we are to accomplish a mission of working for peace and justice, and to work for a desert way of life. Never easy…
In the midst of preparing for the annual celebration of the birth of Christ and for todays’ Advent Pageant (many rehearsals!), all of our musicians—the players and the singers from the Adult and Youth Choir and the Contemporary Group are working extra hard to put our faith and Ministry into practice. Today at 4pm—in the interest of peace, justice, fellowship and fun--we will perform an “Advent Pageant: “Cradle, Cross and Crown” as a food and fundraiser for the St. Aidan Food Pantry. Look for the announcements and please come and be a part of this putting-faith-into-action activity! This is a simple and supportive way to feed the poor.
In the Book of the Prophet Baruch, in the Responsorial Psalm, and in the Gospel of Luke today (quoting Isaiah), we hear poetic and lovely visions of the future for the children of God: peace and justice personified by a desert people: images such as level paths, fragrant shade trees, light in darkest moments─these are image reminders of the ‘bright’ promises God has made and will keep. In Psalm 126 (for this Second Sunday of Advent) we sing: “The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy!” God has already done for us, will continue to do for us, and will ever do for us.
In the Sacramentary today, an alternative opening prayer pleads that “the lure of greed not impede us from the joy which moves the hearts of those who seek Christ.” In the midst of the lure of secular Christmas, we are reminded to put our faith into practice and to enter that desert simplicity. And we are reminded that all flesh shall see the salvation of God. Heartily rejoice Jerusalem! Comfort, Comfort, O My People, for “The Lord has done great things for us!” Maranatha! See you later!