Today’s gospel introduces John the Baptist, John is a “voice in the desert, heralding the Lord’s coming.” The gospel goes on to keynote His desert experience as an ideal Advent preparation for Christmas.
John the Baptist stands in a long line of biblical desert figures, including men like Moses and Elijah. Later our Lord Himself will go out into the desert for 40 days to be tested by Satan.
Several enormous events took place in the desert, events like the revelation of Yahweh’s name and the giving of the Law. So it is no wonder that the desert experience is put before us in Advent to prepare for the event of Christ’s birth.
The desert affords us three ways to become prayerful people. Those ways are simplicity, silence and solitude. These three ways can be part of our Advent practices even if we have no actual physical desert nearby. A desert can be any place where we can be alone with God to pray.
Simplicity invites us to get rid of the excess baggage that blocks our way to Christ, and to see things as they really are. In the city we tend to become enchanted by what is pretty, plastic and superficial. In the desert we come to grips with what is truly beautiful, real and substantial.
In the city we are under constant pressure to perform, produce and do many things. In the desert we can simply “Be” and discover that what we are is more important then what we have or do. Silence is provided in the desert setting of stillness which heals our disturbed spirits and calms our frazzled nerves. In silence we can hear God speak to us. Solitude allows us to escape the herd instinct and find ourselves as we discover quietly who we are and who is our God. It is only in solitude that we can experience the intoxicating presence of God.
So we don’t have to go to a real desert to prepare the way for the Lord’s coming at Christmas. But we do need to go to our own personal desert where we can use simplicity, silence and solitude to prepare for His coming at Christmas.