by Camille Z. Roddy
At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted[a] by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him. After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:9-15)
As a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, I along with fellow alumni have mourned the recent loss of two icons in the Tar Heel family: my classmate, ESPN Sports Center anchor, Stuart Scott and Coach Dean Smith. Both were men of great integrity, stemming from a faith exemplified in their conduct behind and in front of the spot light. Stories shared about each man by friends and family provide evidence these stallworth sport figures lived out their baptisms by showing and giving love to their fellow man.
Read Isaiah 35:1-10.
When was the last time you got impatient? Was it at the store, standing in that long check-out line? Was it sitting in traffic, wondering why the light is green and nobody is moving? Was with your children, or with your parents?
This time of year, especially, I think we are more prone to get impatient. We are rushing and hurrying along to get everything in order. There are presents to be bought or ordered, presents to be wrapped, travel plans to be made, meals to be cooked, and on top of all that, because vacation time is coming, our work load seems to increase. And whenever we finally have a few moments of rest, there is someone or something that beckons our attention, and impatience sets in. And we fuss.
Read Luke 3:7-14.
John has been preaching in the wilderness calling for people to “prepare the way for the Lord.” An important part of this preparation is to repent and turn back to God. John’s preaching is so moving that the people ask him, “What should we do?”
John’s answer is pretty straight forward. If you have two coats and your neighbor has none, share with your neighbor. It is probably one of those things we learned in preschool or kindergarten. This mandate to share is also a mandate to prepare. As we share with our neighbors, we are preparing for the coming Kingdom.
When the tax collectors and the soldiers ask, “What should we do?” John tells them, basically, to not abuse their power. Unfortunately, we live in a society where the abuse of power is all too common place. All too often the oppression, persecution, and injustices we see are at the hands of those in power. How do we as people of faith respond? What, then, should we do?
Read Luke 3:1-6.
John the Baptist choose the wilderness as his context for ministry. The wilderness was the place where the Hebrews wandered around for forty years. The wilderness was the place where Jesus was tempted for forty days. Th wilderness is dangerous and inhospitable. It is barren, rough, and rocky. It is unstructured and chaotic. It is a place of challenges and tests. In the wilderness, John was preparing the way of the One who will refine and redeem.
Susan Mink writes that the wilderness “has long been a metaphor for a place of spiritual trials and transformations.” The wilderness is the place of preparation. The wilderness is where we get ready for the change we are about to make in our lives. The wilderness, then, becomes the starting point for new beginnings and new life. John’s preaching in the wilderness is an invitation to come out of the wilderness and into a new life, new beginnings.
What does your wilderness look like? How are you preparing for new life and new beginning in Jesus Christ?
Today, consider your wilderness and journal about how your wilderness is preparing you for the coming Christ.
God of New Beginnings, may your Holy Spirit dwell in us during our wilderness moments. Prepare us this Advent for the coming Christ Child who makes all things new. Amen.