3rd Sunday in Advent
I remember hearing once about a certain kind of desert flower in Israel that has adapted to the dry climate by going into extended hibernation. As soon as any kind of significant rain falls upon these flowers, however, immediately they open up to take advantage of the rare moisture. For a short time, what was a seemingly dry and lifeless expanse is transformed literally overnight into a riotous explosion of color.
Maybe Isaiah’s joyful proclamation about deserts in bloom is not just a metaphorical reference to the coming of the Messiah but also a memory of this phenomena. Either way, it’s a marvelous image of Hope.
Deserts always seem dead. This is true of the geographical ones and the metaphorical ones. We can travel through long stretches of our lives with profound cynicism right at our heels. The very idea that things will get better or that we’ll be lead to a brighter future seems downright silly.
But then…..the flowers suddenly bloom. Or, as Jesus points out in this week’s gospel, a prophet like John the Baptist emerges from the desert. Who knows – one might even find his or herself transformed into a prophet at the end of a desert experience.
I would encourage anyone who might come across this entry to take advantage of the joyful anticipation that is the essence of this particular Sunday in Advent. Especially if you find yourself emeshed in some kind of a desert experience at the moment. For a prayerful moment, take another look across that dry desolate landscape – could that possibly be a glimpse of color you see? Is it possible that person whom you are trying to figure out might actually be a prophet?
Jim Philipps (3rd millenium pilgrim)
(If you would like to read my book length-reflections on the Bible, especially my most recent book, Make Room for Scripture, go to www.twentythirdpublications.com)