Have you ever noticed how important a role the wilderness plays in Scripture? The Israelites spent 40 years wandering in the wilderness until they learned to trust in God. They as well spent 60 years in exile in Babylon, to them a wilderness, before they were able to return to Israel. Jesus spent 40 days in wilderness preparing for his public life and John the Baptist lived in the wilderness and called people to the wilderness to do his mission of preparing the way for the Lord.
Advent is meant to be our time in the wilderness to do as John the Baptist did, preparing the way for the Lord. How much does Jesus enter into our decisions preparing the way for the Lord, preparing ourselves for celebrating his birthday on Christmas?
Remember the Wright Brothers? No, those two are not two of my 5 sons nor any relation to me but they are the two who left their bike shop in Dayton, Ohio and went into the “wilderness” in Kitty Hawk, NC who invented and flew the first airplane. In December of 1903 they sent a telegram to their sister Katherine which read: “We have flown 120 feet. We will be home for Christmas.” She hurried to the local newspaper and showed them the message. They glanced at the message and said, “How nice, the boys will be home for Christmas.” They totally missed the big news that man has flown.
It is easy to get all wrapped up in all the gift giving, the food and the parties and festivities of the holiday season, minimizing the fact the Christ’s birth is the true reason for this holiday season and that these are Holy Days are intended to bring Jesus more prominently into our daily lives. The current happenings in our culture today are attempting to be politically correct in stores and companies, all but forbidding people to say Merry Christmas and saying Happy Holidays instead. When people wish us Happy Holidays a great response is always “and a “Merry Christmas” to you”.
The one preparation for Christmas which we need to do is, prepare ourselves spiritually. How do we do that? First, we do that by running to Jesus, asking for forgiveness and healing, all the while knowing that as we repent of our sins, we will be refreshed, experiencing Jesus’ refreshing love, mercy and forgiveness helping us start over as did God did for the Israelites so many times and as he is willing to do for us every time we come to him.
In the Old Testament the prophets consistently urged Israel to repent and reorient their lives in accordance with their covenantal commitment to God. In our Gospel today, John the Baptist, the first prophet in 300 years, called the people to repentance and reorientation of their lives as his role in preparing the way of the Lord. That is exactly what our task is this advent, repent and reorient our lives in accordance with our covenant as Christians, that is live according to the teachings of Jesus.
The second part and the more important part of our spiritual preparation, is, reorienting our lives in accordance with our covenant as Christians means very simply, accept Christ as our Lord and savior. We all but automatically say that we do accept Jesus as our Lord and savior but do we really? The fact is that if we are full of pride, are self-centered and have many earthly possessions as our primary goal, we in fact are rejecting Christ, not accepting him. In order to truly accept Jesus as our lord and savior we are to be, in our own way, preachers of the Good News, fostering love, kindness, mercy and forgiveness thereby making our lives a kind of Bible that others can read.
So this Advent let’s prepare the way for the Lord as John the Baptist did by not missing the reason for the season, but rather repenting and reorienting our lives in accordance to our Christian covenant.