Advent Wilderness

Sunrise over the Continental Divide Camp Chief Ouray

One voice beckons to us this season.  John, the baptizer, the cleanser of souls, calls us out of the humdrum to join him in the wild.  In all of the Gospels John calls from the wilderness, and it is to the wilderness we are drawn.  Why the wilderness?  What can we draw from hearing John’s voice as one beyond the borders of society living wildly?

I have found some of my closest spiritual kin living in the mountains.  The liminal experience of leaving civilization for the society of pine trees and snowy peaks draws people of a depth and awareness that I can’t reliably depend on finding in “Christian community” in the city.  Many of my closest friends hesitate when asked about their religious walk.  They find God most concretely in nature, feeling the deep breathing of the Creator when the first beams of the sun tickle their face as it rises over the Continental divide, or in the intricacy of the veins of a leaf.  Urban churches leave them dry, so they return to the well of nature as they reach out to touch the divine.

I believe God can be found in the wilderness because it is in the wilderness that we are free from human constructions of reality.  Out of the cities and societies we create and manipulate we find raw reality, unspoiled by human hands.  I remember coming back from backpacking trips in my teens to return to the “real world,” and wondering which world was more real.

This is why John calls us to the wilderness.  He asks us to leave the world we have created, to experience the raw world of the Creator’s palette.  He beckons us to see beyond our limited understanding.  This is how the kingdom becomes incarnate, out by the raw wildness of the Jordan River.

We are called out from under the fluorescent lights of the shopping mall, out to bathe in the glory of a star-lit night.

Published by Mike Angell

The Rev. Mike Angell is rector of The Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion in St. Louis.

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