2nd Sunday Advent – Taking the Fifth…
Actually, making my 5th try to upload today’s *&^$@ video. And I give up. Anyway…
Here’s today’s reflection on “the wilderness, the desert, the desolate places…”
Luke 3:2–4 …during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
First, a note: hrema, “spoken word,” also can be translated “event, matter, occurrence.” This could indicate that the spoken word was a divine event that happened to John in the wilderness. Hold that thought because much of the scriptural reflection on God’s dealing with Israel occurs in the desert, regarding what happened in the desert, and how that either was a blessing or a curse.
Back to the wilderness. In Luke’s gospel, Jesus was tempted there, he prayed there, did miracles there. Moses encountered the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the burning bush in the desert. Pharaoh’s troops tried to corner Israel in the wilderness. The people complained about no water, no food, and then some in the desert. They wandered for 40 years in the wilderness. Yet Deuteronomy romanticized it all to a degree.
Psalm 95:8f Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah, as on the day at Massah in the wilderness, when your ancestors tested me, and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.
Exodus 14:11f They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us, bringing us out of Egypt? Is this not the very thing we told you in Egypt, ‘Let us alone and let us serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness.”
Deuteronomy 1:30–32 The Lord your God, who goes before you, is the one who will fight for you, just as he did for you in Egypt before your very eyes, and in the wilderness, where you saw how the Lord your God carried you, just as one carries a child, all the way that you traveled until you reached this place. But in spite of this, you have no trust in the Lord your God…
And this is the very place John called the people to repent to receive the glory of God!
Isaiah 40:3–5 A voice cries out: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
His baptism was an innovation. It had been reserved only to Gentile converts, to give them an experience, not only of ritual cleansing, but also of the march through the Red Sea from slavery to freedom – the fundamental Jewish event.
John prepared Jews by calling them to undergo this proselyte baptism so that they could relive and deepen the experience of God being active in their lives – to call them to repentance through the forgiveness of sins!
If I can post today’s video tomorrow, I will. At least I’ll give it one more try!
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