Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John. “What did you go out to the desert to see?”…This is the one about whom Scripture says: “Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you; he will prepare the way before you.”
Yesterday I went to see the Christmas program at my old school out in Richardson. I wasn’t going to go. The weather was horrible; the traffic would be bumper to bumper, and I would feel like I was stalking my old stomping grounds. I hesitated throughout the entire time I was in my car. But I had promised the kids and like so many times in my life, I was so happy that I did. The kids were wonderful, hilarious, silly and goofy! The elementary school children were decked out with their reindeer suits and little antlers. Others were dressed like penguin. Some not too larger than the actual ones! In the end, they sang their hearts out to their moms and dads and to the baby Jesus. Oh, the beauty of a Catholic education and school!
During the program, some middle school students quietly approached me to invite me to say hello to the others. Of course I went along with them. Once I arrived near the front of the sanctuary, the music director announced over the microphone, to my embarrassment, that I had arrived and that I was standing off to the side. I cannot begin to express to you how happy I was at the reception I received. It was a wonderful reminder of why I chose to follow the Lord: I was looking for something in the desert.
Often we think of the desert of consisting solely of sand domes and reeds swaying in the stifling heat. But the desert could also consist of seeing day in and day out the same things over and over again.
I fear that far too many of us live in the desert. We work ten hours a day, we work with the same people, sit in the same chair and work in front of the same computer day in and day out. Our business is to be consistent. How awful the assembly lines of old must have been. How mindless Ford must have been when he came up with the very efficient but very inhuman assembly line. We have been trained since Kindergarten to think that life consists of working, eating, sleeping and playing.
What did you go out to the desert to see? What message did you expect to receive? I believe the message for all of us is this: there is more to living than working, eating, sleeping and playing. There is the delight of surprise. There is the attraction of mystery. There is God’s Kingdom in the midst of the desert. There is God’s job for you in the midst of your job in the desert.
A simple superintendent at a small public school has gotten himself into a lot of trouble by putting up a nativity scene. As soon as he received threats from the ACLU the crèche went down; but as soon as he received free legal/financial support to defend it, the crèche went back up. Most schools buckle to the ACLU for one reason alone: financial. But when someone steps up with financial guarantees, then the ACLU will not take the case – it’s not worth it. This superintendent has discovered something in his job: a higher calling, the bigger picture, a greater vision.
We can all receive the higher calling. We can all work for the bigger boss. We can all prepare the way of the Lord from our simple office, our everyday computer terminal, our mundane ten-hour-a-day job. All we have to do is be the prophet, priest and king He baptized us to be in the middle of the desert.