Submitted by Andy McIlvain.
The wilderness implies many things: a vast untamed and dangerous place, red of tooth and claw, where death and injury lurk. We travel into the wildernesses of the world with great preparation and forethought.
As pilgrims in a foreign country we begin our journey at birth and subsequently as consciousness makes us aware of our life, the wilderness opens before us. It indeed is vast, unfathomable and intimidating. The wilderness is a dangerous place where the Ruler of this World (Ephesians 2:1-3) seeks to subvert God’s Kingdom and God’s people.
I remember vaguely a time when I was maybe seven- or eight-years old hunting with my father in the piney woods of east Texas and got lost or perceived myself to be lost. Soon my father would appear and console me and then through the seemingly vast woodland wilderness make a way back to safety and home.
In this life we are lost in the wilderness more than we care to admit. From out of the wilderness, John the Baptist came to “prepare the way of the Lord.” He was “the voice of one crying out in the wilderness” (Luke 3:4). “Waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert.” “The wilderness becomes a fruitful field.” “The desert shall rejoice and blossom” (Isaiah 35:6; 32:15; 35:1). Even as we are lost in the wilderness God points the way. But another aspect of the wilderness is that God rescues his people from it.
In her book Advent: The Once and Future Coming of Christ, Fleming Rutledge states John the Baptist is “the sentinel” whose “function is to proclaim the coming reversal of the downward spiral of human history, to deliver the message of the invading Son of God . . . whose single-minded life and horrendous death at the hands of the powers and principalities are a preview of Jesus’s own death.” In this sense, John demonstrates that “it is in the suffering and death of God’s servants at the hands of despots and tyrants that God’s new rule is made manifest”.
Rutledge goes on to say Advent is not “a transitional season . . . a season of preparation for Christmas.” Rather, it is a season that “in and of itself communicates a message of immense, even ultimate, importance,” for “of all the seasons of the church year, Advent most closely mirrors the daily lives of Christians and of the church, asks the most important ethical questions, presents the most accurate picture of the human condition, and above all, orients us to the future of the God who will come again.”
Christ has died.
Christ is risen.
Christ will come again.
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.