A voice cries out in the wilderness calling people to turn to relationship with God. In preparation for the joyful tidings that will introduce a new situation for the world, God’s creative act fulfilling promises of salvation.
John the Baptist is the archetypal man of the wilderness, the nomad who follows God in the desert. Because we are familiar with the story we don’t perhaps incline to see wilderness as the appropriate place for the people of God: a place of separation and exile, a state of wondering and following.
As I’ve prepared for this Sunday’s services I’m struck by the wilderness and the contrast to the one who comes baptising in the Spirit. The baptism which makes the desert fertile and the wilderness resonate with the presence of God.
My experience of advent, like Christmas which follows, is one of indulgence. Excessive food, frenetic activity and incessant demands which come January will give way to the regret of diets, New Year resolutions and attempts at exercise. At the same time we are surrounded by the unrelenting push of advertisers who encourage us to locate happiness in consumption and self worth in purchasing decisions.
John came to a people expecting a revival of prophecy with a call to a revival of penitence; encouraging people to consecrate themselves to God in recognition of what God is doing. His message is one that the journey from indulgence to regret needs to be replaced with one from wilderness to new life and from discipline to celebration.
Perhaps this advent will see a turn from the lure of indulgence towards the discipline of the desert, where advent hope can turn to celebration not regret, to new life not resignation.