ItFor I am about to create new heavens and a new earth; the former things shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I am creating; for I am about to create Jerusalem as a joy, and its people as a delight. (Isaiah 65: 17-18)

On the twelfth day of Advent, my true love gave to me…Ugh oh…it’s not Advent, the song is about Christmas. The two are so easily confused in our world. Advent is not Christmas. Christmas is about the manger and Mary and Joseph and the shepherds and the beginning of life again. Christmas is about God’s coming into our little world to shake things up and change us and everything around us. But Advent? Well, Advent is about looking toward the horizon, looking toward that time when, yet again, our little world will be shaken to its core and we and everything around us will be changed. Do you see it? There…there just over the horizon. The light is beginning to peak over the clouds and dawn is beginning to come.

So, Advent reminds us that what we see, what we know, what we have so carefully constructed in our life is not “It”. (Sorry, it’s not!) Advent reminds us that there is always, always a horizon. When Jesus came into this world, God incarnate, so long ago, as much as we Christians with all our pretty lights and our comforting Christmas carols try to make that “It”, I don’t think it is. The “it” that happened in that manger on that dark night in Bethlehem was not “It”. It was not really the things for which the world had waited. Rather, it was the beginning of it. It was the thing that pointed to “It”.

You see, if our celebrations stop at Christmas (or, for that matter, even START there), we have missed it all. If our celebrations stop in the manger, they are nothing more than an historic remembrance of a beautiful, incredible night when God peeked into the world. But if we begin to see the manger as the beginning, as the “it” that points to the “It”, as the beginning of what we will find just over the horizon, then the coming of God, Emmanuel, into our little world is everything that it was meant to be.

So, on this twelfth day of Advent, raise your heads beyond the gift-buying and the tree-decorating, and all that this season holds. And open your eyes and see just over the horizon. There “It” is…we can’t see it all yet, but “It” is coming to be. There…there just over the horizon. That is “It”.

The Advent mystery is the beginning of the end in all of us that is not yet Christ. (Thomas Merton)

Grace and Peace,


Becoming Wilderness

"St. John the Baptist", El Greco, c. 1600.
“St. John the Baptist”, El Greco, c. 1600.

Scripture Text:  Matthew 3: 1-5

 In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, 2“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 3This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’” 4Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, 6and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.


We never know quite what to do with this strange wilderness man.  You can imagine him covered with dirt and grime after all this time in the wilderness.  His hair is long and unkempt, matted in places and hanging down over one of his eyes.  He is decked out from neck to knee in some sort of strange covering made of camel’s hair that is secured by a roughshod faded leather belt hastily tied around his waist.  And all this time in the wilderness has caused him to lose any hint of a sophisticated palate finely tuned to the gentle blend of herbs and spices and culinary concoctions.  Instead, he is content to eat what he finds—locusts, wild honey, whatever else may cross his path.  Yeah, we never know quite what to do with this strange wilderness man.

John was definitely not a run-of-the-mill preacher.  He had zeal; he had passion; his primary focus was preparing the way of the Lord.   I’m not sure what John saw for those who did not know God.  But he was determined that all who came out to him somehow, some way turned their lives around.  Now this whole idea of “repentance” that John emphasized is not one that we good Methodists often focus on.  It sometimes sounds a little too “hellfire and brimstone” for us. But repentance means turning around, a new mind, a change of direction.  It means throwing off those things that bind us to the life we know for those things that point to a life with God.  It does not mean that God has finally won us over; it means, rather, that our own self, our own story, has finally come to be.  Just being there is not enough; just having Abraham for your ancestor is not enough; just doing the right thing is not enough.  You must change your life.  You must change your path.  You must change how you look at the world.  There are no favorites.  This includes everyone.

So, why did John make his home in the wilderness?  Why didn’t he come to town, plant himself in the middle of the town square, and preach his message there?  Maybe it was not that John himself had such an affinity for the wilderness life.  Maybe it was rather that he saw what we often avoid.  I mean, think about the wilderness—it calls us into things outside our normal routines, outside of the establishments that make up our lives.  The wilderness calls us to learn to see things anew.  Without routines, we have to rely on something that will point us in the right direction; without our comfortable landmarks and our timeworn assumptions, we have to rely on the wilderness and those who we meet on the path showing us the way.

No, we don’t know what to do with him.  We don’t know how to talk to or talk about this wild wilderness man.  After all, John is a threat to proper society and accepted norms.  John IS the wilderness.  Maybe that’s what we need to do—become wilderness.  Now I’m not ready to don camel’s hair and I’m thinking that I might pack some peanut butter and crackers and perhaps a high-protein granola bar to avoid EVER having to eat locusts.  But maybe I do need to become wilderness, to clear the timeworn path through my life, to become open to the wildness of God’s Spirit that blows in and out of places that I never knew, that somehow compels me to travel down roads unknown, sometimes with fear and trepidation, and be willing (no, actually WANT to) turn myself around and see what I have not seen.

OK, John, I guess we get it.  I’m still not keen on the outfit and the meal, but if our Lenten journey has taught us anything, it is to open ourselves to traveling through what we do not know so that it can all be revealed to us.  John saw something that I have been avoiding.  John was not waiting for God’s Kingdom to come to be; he saw it happening.  By becoming wilderness, by stepping out of what he knew, he saw that God was not just coming but was already here.


Not only is another world possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing. (Suzanna Arundhati Roy)


FOR TODAY: Become wilderness. Open your eyes and see God’s Kingdom coming to be. (And, if you need to, pack some peanut butter!)

Grace and Peace,


Be Coming

Be the Coming Scripture Text:  Isaiah 43: 15-19

I am the Lord, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, your King.  Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters, who brings out chariot and horse, army and warrior; they lie down, they cannot rise, they are extinguished, quenched like a wick:  Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old.  I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?  I will  make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.


We have talked and talked about preparing the way, about being the ones to make a way for the Coming of the Lord.  So what exactly does that mean?  What are we REALLY supposed to be doing during this Season of Holy Waiting?  Do we clean up around us, perhaps making the place in which we reside a bit more presentable?  Do we pull out the good dishes and the best linens?  Do we prepare a meal fit for a king?  Do we throw all that we have into decorating our lives for the season?  No, it’s probably something more.  Do we prepare ourselves to welcome God, perhaps to be open to what surely will be a massive change in the way we think and the way we live?  Do we clear ourselves of the debris in our minds and hearts so that we are prepared for God to come into our lives unhindered?  What does all that mean?


Perhaps this season, in the midst of our waiting, in the midst of our preparing, is a season of becoming.  Not just becoming something better or something different; not just becoming someone more versed in the ways of the Lord; it means becoming–learning to BE the Coming of the Lord.  What if our lives, rather than being spent looking for something or someone outside of us to come, someone to come and “fix” things or “change” things or set things right, were spent becoming the Coming?  (I know…I’m talking in circles.)  God is not waiting in the wings of our lives to come.  God is not holding out on us until we “get it” or until we “do something right” or even until we “become who God envisions that we can be.”  God is here, now, in this moment, waiting…waiting…patiently waiting for us to see and to hear and to know.  God is waiting for us to realize that we, even we, can BE the Coming of God into our world, can BE the very image of God, the very likeness of Jesus Christ.


We are not called to become God.  God is God.  We are not destined to become Divine.  But we are already holy and sacred, a gift of God.  As the Scripture says, God is about to do a new thing–even with us.  God is even now making a way in the wilderness, clearing a path, for the Reign of God to come in its fullness.  Even now the darkness in our lives is being pushed back.  The Light is beckoning us forth.  Follow the path.  BE the Coming of God into this world.  In other words, BE the Light.  Be the change.  Be Coming.


The noblest prayer is when [one] who prays is inwardly transformed into what [one] kneels before. (Angelus Silesius, 1624-1677)


FOR TODAY:  Imagine what it means to BE the Coming of God.  What do you need to do to prepare for that?


Grace and Peace,