It’s almost Christmas; in fact, you may be lighting this last candle on Christmas Eve. John the Baptist is an odd addition to the faces at the manger! But before we turn to angels and shepherds and magi, Mark’s Gospel holds before us the good news that will continue to break: “Repentance” means “to turn around.” The Common English Bible translates the Greek as “changing … hearts and lives.” That’s the turnaround in our wilderness, toward “God with us.”
Lighting the candles
Light the first, second, and third candles
on the Advent wreath;
light the fourth candle (purple) for the coming of Immanuel,
As a child raised in the Catholic Church, I was trained to “prepare for Communion” by going to confession on Saturday whether I had sinned or not. It was embarrassing to go out into the pews and say prayers in penance, especially, if they involved a whole rosary. There were a lot of jokes about who finished praying first. The longer the penance, the more sins you must have confessed! My family also got good at figuring out which priest doled out the most or least prayers at confession.
Preparing in the wilderness:
My first deeply felt “preparation” for the Creator was experienced in a mini vision quest in the wilderness. We met as a group after sunset and participated in a Sacred Native American Pipe Ceremony in silence. We then walked in silence to a Sacred Hill and found a private spot to sit and pray.
We had been instructed to “open our hearts, and allow the Creator to see all of us, and to understand nothing would be hidden. We were b...
I just have to watch the Newshour at 6:00 pm or read the New York Times daily briefing to come to the conclusion that our world is covered with millions of acres of wilderness-and not much consists of thick green vegetation. And how many voices are crying out, or seeking a path-to some peace, to shelter, to food, medicine, basic human needs.
Imagine the terror in Egypt as terrorists branch out to a mosque, killing over 300 men, women, and children, as they are in prayer. The sound of weeping is thundering.
And then there is the picture of the Muslim Rohingya on a miles long path, trying to escape the atrocities committed by the Myanmar military. Ethnic cleansing and/or genocide are words used to describe what is happening in that country. Who knows where that path ends?
Those events are just the tip of the iceberg. Look what is happening in parts of Africa, Syria, Ukraine, North Korea, and many other countries, too many to list: famine, disease, lack of shelter, extreme povert...
My Bible study group happened to study the beginning of Mark's gospel just a couple of weeks ago. We talked and talked about what John the Baptist's quote from Isaiah, 'prepare the way of the Lord' means, and what 'make his paths straight' means, and what these phrases mean again and again for us as Advent approaches every year (Mark 1:3). We all engage in a lot of Christmas preparation: decorations, presents, cookies, cards, etc. Are those examples of preparing the way of the Lord? We often prepare to do extra giving at this time of year to worthy organizations that support others. Is that preparing the way of the Lord? We are often more attuned to the carols of the season and to the nativity scenes, and we may attend church more regularly during Advent. Is that preparing the way of the Lord? We receive Communion on the first Sunday of Advent and on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Is that preparing the way of the Lord? We focus on family and on showing our love an...