Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Meditation on This Sunday's Gospel

The readings for Sunday, December 9, 2012:

Malachi 3:1-4 or Baruch 5:1-9

Luke 1:68-79 (Luke 1:78)

Philippians 1:3-11

Luke 3:1-6

In this week's Gospel, we see and hear John the Baptist proclaiming the good news. We'll see him in different contexts throughout the liturgical year. Luke gives a rather tame introduction--no locusts or wild honey. But he is living in the wilderness, which has led me to think of the role of wilderness in the lives of believers.

Again, in this season of relentless festivity, this Gospel (and all the Advent readings) might give us a bit of disconnect. Why is John in the wilderness? What is the nature of this good news? What does it have to do with the fierce consumerism that also calls to us this time of year?

The words of Isaiah could stir even the most emotionally dead of us. This vision that God has for our world is also one that we yearn for--and perhaps it is those yearnings that drive us to spend, spend, spend. Why would we spend, instead of taking our cue from John and proclaiming the Good News? Perhaps because we don't recognize these yearnings for what they are. Perhaps because our capitalist culture isn't committed to showing us the wide range of possible responses to our yearnings for something better.

If we're living in the wilderness, we may feel cut off or otherwise deadened. It's hard to think about wilderness, in this time of overdevelopment. Many of us live in places where there is more concrete than desert (or other forms of wilderness). Perhaps one of these places of relentless "development" is where John the Baptist would come from, if we re-cast the story in modern terms.

Or perhaps it would be useful to think of wilderness in other ways. Perhaps the wilderness is not a geographical place, so much as an emotional one. Many of us approach December with all kinds of dread. We don't have enough money to pay for necessities, much less gifts. We've lost loved ones, and the holidays remind us of those holes left by loss. We remember a time when we liked the holidays and we've lost that person who approached the season with wonder and joy. We have too much caretaking to do and no one taking care of us.

Listen to the words of John the Baptist again. Listen to God, who often calls to us from the wilderness. Let the words fill your heart with hope: "The crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God." (Luke 3: 5-6). Your salvation is at hand: your grieving heart will be comforted, your anger and irritation will lift, the planet will heal itself as it always does, God will take care of you and everything you need is on its way. Glad tidings of good news indeed.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My love (and I call you that mainly because we have been married for 23+ years), wilderness teaches us what and who we are as individuals and as a species in relation to God in a way that urban life simply cannot. We all need to experience wilderness (like secluded Lutheran camps) to appreciate all that God has given.