"The desert and the parched land will exult; the steppe will rejoice and bloom. They will bloom with abundant flowers, and rejoice with joyful song....Streams will burst forth in the desert, and rivers in the steppe. The burning sands will become pools, and the thirsty ground, springs of water." Is 35, 1,6
The prophecy of Isaiah is wonderfully visual. Reminding us that all creation "lives" in God, the prophet invites us to think of the desert drinking water gratefully and the mountains singing for joy. God's love, Isaiah suggests, is so immediate and so full that one can taste it, smell it, hear and touch it. Working hard to help his sisters and brothers in exile not lose hope, Isaiah reminds them to focus on the simplest of God's gifts, their own senses, as a pathway to renewed life in the Spirit.
Unfortunately, in a society so glutted with visual images, we sometimes fail to appreciate the fulness of God's presence all around us, and the days before Christmas, in the name of love and self giving, often make our lives more obsessive, more hurried and much less human. As Jesus says: "You have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear." While I realize that I am one of the fortunate few who is not compelled to buy dozens of gifts, nevertheless, it saddens me to think that the frenzy and rushing of preparing for Christmas can steal the most precious moments of the church year and strip us our ability to see beyond the physical. Advent can be a time that we so "stuff ourselves" with preparing food and finding the perfect gift that we don't really enjoy anything.
What would it be like, for instance, to take one minute each day to pause and picture the person for whom you are buying something happy, content, and faith filled. It is not a difficult exercise, but I feel certain that if we gave members of our family an inexpensive gift and a brief note telling them how we prayed for them each day during Advent, they would treasure the note much more than the gift.
Today, think simple. Live simply.