The readings for this second week of Advent alert us of something new about to happen. But in both the prophet Isaiah and the Gospel of Mark we go to the wilderness as part of the experience of the new thing.
In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord says Isaiah. Why the wilderness? Why not the temple? Why not Jerusalem? Why not with the family, at home around the fireplace? Why the wilderness?
And John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness. Again, why the wilderness? Nobody lives in the wilderness. The people are all in the cities and villages. The religious people gather in temples and synagogues. If you have a message for the people why would you take it to the wilderness? Why not take it to the people?
Our worship staff spends days planning Advent worship so that we might be able to create a space for people to experience God. That space is in our sanctuary with art and music and Word and sacrament and prayer and song. But then the Advent scripture informs us that we must go to the wilderness to prepare a place for God and it is in the wilderness that John will show us the Christ.
The wilderness is not a hospitable place. Dry, parched, desolate, empty. The wilderness has no nourishment for us, nothing to quench our thirst. The wilderness is dangerous and frightening. We go through the wilderness only if we must on our way to some other place. It is a place to pass through, not a place to live. But we must go there if we want to prepare a place for God. We must go to the wilderness if we want to find Christ.
We all have a wilderness-
a relationship that is devoid of life
a suffocating grief or uncontrollable anger
debilitating fear, anxiety or depression
What is your wilderness? Where is the place you would rather not go?
The wilderness is where we are totally dependent on God. It is where we cannot do it ourselves. The wilderness is the place we recognize our needs instead of our wants and desires. It is where God nourishes us, provides for us, guides us, and saves us.
“A voice cries out, ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord’…”