In the middle of a season where there is an extraordinary amount of “crying out” in the form of advertisements, promotions and appeals, it can be easy to get caught up in the busyness that often accompanies this time of year and for the voice within and the peace that comes with it to become muzzled or even disconnected. At a time of the year when many observe the season of Advent, a period of waiting, watching and preparing, Scripture cries out through the readings in the book of the Prophet Isaiah and through the words of John the Baptist in Gospel passages.
John the Baptist was “a voice of one crying out in the desert.” Each of us is also a voice of one…in our families, among our friends, and out and about in the world. Regardless of whether or not we share certain beliefs and practices, we all have a voice that is unique, and all of us have been given the gifts to use that voice through both words and actions. How do I use that voice? For what is my soul crying out?
John the Baptist had a strong sense of his mission to prepare the way for the Lord. That very same sense of purpose and direction from God is available to each of us. How often do I take the time to seek it?
John is also very clear about his role. He states, “I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
Oftentimes we can feel as though we are not worthy or up to the task in front of us. Yet there are many examples that we can point to, both in Scripture and through our life experiences, of God working through those who “are not worthy” or who feel they are not capable. John the Baptist states that he is not worthy, yet he was chosen to prepare the way for the Lord…he baptized the Lord. He is likely trying to make it clear that he is not the Messiah or on equal par with the Savior who is to come. His sense of purpose and his role is ingrained in him along with a vision that extends beyond himself. He is a child of God, doing the work for which God has chosen him, he is worthy and capable, as are we.
Take some time to think of people who have prepared the way for you. Just as God has placed those people in your life, God has also placed you in their life as well as in the life of others. What is it like to envision yourself in the line of those who prepare the way for others? What feelings and desires arise within you as you stay with this image?
Now take a few moments to think of or picture John, “a voice of one crying out in the desert.” He says, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths: all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” (Luke 3:4,6) John is preparing the way for the Lord. In the process, he is using the gifts God has granted to him.
God has blessed each of us with various gifts. Among them are talents. Think about a few of the gifts and talents God has given to you.
Next, think of or picture the Lord. What 3 adjectives or characteristics come to mind?
Sometimes in prayer, there can be a tendency to be more attentive to what we are thinking than what we are feeling. It is helpful to be aware of both thoughts and feelings and to bring both into prayer.
Take time now to enter into prayer. Ask the Lord to show you how and where you might use the gifts/talents you named above in ways that encompass more fully the 3 adjectives or characteristics of the Lord that you named. Notice what you are thinking and feeling as you pray.
After allowing sufficient time, bring your prayer to a close with a silent Amen or another gesture of gratitude and acknowledgment of the sacred exchange that you have had. Consider repeating this prayer in the days to come.
John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea
and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”
It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said:
A voice of one crying out in the desert,
Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.
John wore clothing made of camel’s hair
and had a leather belt around his waist.
His food was locusts and wild honey.
At that time Jerusalem, all Judea,
and the whole region around the Jordan
were going out to him
and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River
as they acknowledged their sins.
When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees
coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers!
Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?
Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.
And do not presume to say to yourselves,
‘We have Abraham as our father.’
For I tell you,
God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones.
Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees.
Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit
will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
I am baptizing you with water, for repentance,
but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I.
I am not worthy to carry his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
His winnowing fan is in his hand.
He will clear his threshing floor
and gather his wheat into his barn,
but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”