John the Baptist, fresh from the desert, disturbs us on the second week of Advent. Always. He seems so radical dressed like he is and telling us to prepare our hearts and lives for one who will turn our lives upside down by the very act of baptism, for starters. Not just by water, but the Holy Spirit! And as I remember my baptism, the words 'You are sealed as Christ's own...forever...' stand out in my mind as being equally radical.
John's arrival signals a promise for new life. (As in a new baby I wonder? A baby born in a stable?) New life not just for each of us individually, but for us all through each other. By the sign of the water flowing in and upon us, over our heads and through our lives, we recognize it's renewal qualities of rebirth and green growing and peace with all things. In this baptism we all are given the Spirit of God as a pledge of reconciliation and the surprise is that through each of us we are bound to all and joined together with the community of all people. Here, where we live is our individual call to minister to love, peace and justice in our private and broader worlds. (Whew, A new baby can bring all that? we ask.) But wait, John goes on. "Make the road into your heart straight." We honestly reply, "No offense John, but we don't know what you are talking about!" Rebirth, baptism, sealed in Christ, our call to love and community...whaaa? "What is this all supposed to look in my life?" At these questions, most likely we fall appropriately silent, and by our silence, we see we've entered into the time of Advent waiting.
In September I too spent time in the desert. Waiting. I didn't know for what, and I'm still unclear. However, as I reread a note I wrote to those with me I'm seeing that waiting is just the place I want to be right now.
" I struggle, not because of some malady or cause, other than the fact that the Spirit seemed to move us out of our bodies, souls and minds in the desert, but with how to collect all the pieces back into one physical, spiritual, and emotional being. I can feel the shift in my eyes and body. Even pictures of us show us changed; we're 'other'. We've been somewhere and I for one still haven't found my way back from the other side. However boundary-less time-spirit may be, she also by the divisions of light signal an urgency, the kind which feels imperative to organization and cognition; a growing need on my part to figure what the heck happened, or in the least, peel myself off the sand and rematerialize a modicum of former recognition of myself and get about the business of 'functional' living.
And yet, at the same time, I'm resistant. I'm not sure I want to hurry back to my function. It's way too luscious out there. The desert makes all being intimate. I wanted to follow the call of each bird onto its flight, and each lizard into the creosote. Time in that desert ocean felt luxurious, slow and focused. There was time for small attentions and quiet movements. Time to let the day unfold. Quietly quiet, tender, tracking the moon by night and the sun throughout the day. Not hurried. Still."
As I consider my desert experience in the context of our 2011 Advent season, I feel happy we've been given 'permission' to extend the waiting a little longer while God does the work of preparing our hearts for incorporating into our lives (perhaps in another season) the meaning of the words of our baptism, "We are sealed as Christ's own forever." Ahhh, that's what Advent is for. Waiting. Waiting while our lives are being prepared to recieve God's action. And while we're waiting, the desert is really not a bad place to be!
Come, gather with me for our Taize on Dec. 2. There we will begin the process of waiting, in community, for the action of God's peace in our hearts.