Cover photo of our Lady of Guadalupe from Sacred Heart Church by John Goddard.
Dear Believers in the Messiah,
John the Baptist is my favorite personality in the gospel next to his cousin Jesus. I am drawn to John because he knows entirely who he is in the story of the Christ. Even when he was in the womb, he danced in recognition that he was in the presence of the Savior. How can you beat that? John grew up close to the earth and close to the realization that the world needs salvation. He spent his life pointing into the direction of Christ Jesus and calling people to ready their lives for his promise of salvation.
Today’s gospel, Luke 3:1-6, breaks through the silence of the desert so we may listen to the strong and bold words of John the Baptist. Again, the gospel is not about a cozy, domestic longing for the baby Jesus. Somehow we are afraid to look at Christmas differently from the warm fires of family life. Christmas is not about domestic bliss, rather it is about the realization that the Word of God moves mountains, changes the directions of streams and makes winding roads straight. In other words, there is nothing in our lives that cannot be redeemed, loved and forgiven. This is the journey for us, to open wide our hearts even when we are filled with fear. We seek the glory of God becoming flesh within the world.
John is in the desert in today’s gospel. The wasteland is an important image in the gospels. Here’s why. The coming of Christ reestablishes the full presence of God. This abundant love is viewed in the original image of life in the Garden of Eden. In other words, the desert, which is devoid of lush green and flowing water, will become the second garden of life in the resurrection of Christ Jesus. So John shakes us all up by saying that we must be prepared for something new to happen in the desert. Valleys will be filled in and rough roads made smooth. Lush green will become our home, an image of eternal life.
This image of desert is also about the human heart. There will be no sin or anxiety that will not be forgiven or made new in Christ Jesus. John has quite the task in Advent. He is bold, earthy, strong and sure in his declaration that every human heart must wait for God. We all experience this dry wasteland at some point in our lives. We all know how sin, division and heartache can shrink or decay the potential of life. Our hearts in Advent are laid bare for love to enter them to make them whole.
Our prayer during the Advent season must be inclusive and expansive. We are to pray for all the ways our hearts become withered and small. We are to take the voice of the weak seriously and to walk among the bewildered and the poor with unbelievable hope.
May the blessings of the season fill our weakness and break open our desperate hearts.