Wrapped For Advent

Wrapped For Advent

Jerusalem, take off your robe of mourning and misery; put on the splendor of glory from God forever: wrapped in the cloak of justice from God, bear on your head the mitre that displays the glory of the eternal name. – Baruch 5:1-9

When I was young, I remember visiting with family around the holidays. The house was always full. Crammed with light and heat, food and drink, storytelling, laughing; music playing and televisions blaring. One of the things I loved to do in the middle of this happy chaos was to escape it. Just for a wee bit…

I’d wander like Walt Whitman out into the “mystical, moist night air.” Out of the front door and into the wintry darkness. The thrill of the chill woke me up, coming out of a bustling and balmy house full of family. Into the darkened streets I’d go, gazing up at the stars, wandering and wondering, in concentric circles, past the quiet houses with their flickering blue lights from the televisions. And just when the chill of winter began to sink its teeth into my bones, the circling led me back to the front door of Grandma and Grandpa’s house. The warmth of those sights and sounds was a welcome robe to be wrapped in again.

I think this is the dynamic of our lives, this coming and going. Exitus, reditus. And one feeds the other as kindling feeds a flame. In company, we often long for solitude. In solitude, we long for community again. The cold dark and the shining stars can stir deeper thoughts in these winter months. And these thoughts warm the mind with memories and insights. The light and warmth by contrast, invite us to go deeper into the wilderness again.

This dynamic is alive in the figure of St. John the Baptist in the Advent season Gospels. John is a wanderer and a wonderer. He draws the comfortable away from their couches. He takes them outside to look up at the stars! To see the mountains in all their beauty. And he tells them things in the wild so they can take them back inside. To ponder them in their hearts.

Everyone comes to see him. What thoughts does the Baptist stir in us? When he calls to us to turn around, repent, and return, will we stay inside, wrapped in the familiar warmth of a safe life? Or will we wrap ourselves in that cloak of justice from God; the one that speaks to our truest, deepest self? The one that allows us to become that person we were always meant to become.

A voice of one crying out in the desert: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths. Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low. The winding roads shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” – Luke 3:6