December 6, 2013

Finding the wilderness in our lives

By Hannah Barg, a sophomore environmental science major from Galena, Ill.
SCRIPTURE: Matthew 3:1-12 (3) (NRSV)
DEVOTIONAL:

One of the most important aspects of my spiritual journey throughout the years has been the connection I feel to God when I am immersed in the outdoors. As a child, my father would frequently take me on bike rides and hikes through a local forest preserve. Each time we went on these excursions, we would venture off the trail briefly to visit a magnificent old oak tree. While there we journaled, prayed and enjoyed God’s beautiful creation together.

Everyone needs the wilderness in their lives, a place where they can escape from the hustle and bustle and meet with God. One of the most difficult times to do this is during the busy holiday season, where it seems that other concerns and plans take precedence over our spiritual commitments. The truth is, we need this time alone with God especially to prepare for the celebration of Christ’s birth.

John the Baptist devoted his life to living in the wilderness, and drew the crowds there to baptize and speak the Good News about Jesus. He knew that someone greater was to follow him, one whose sandals he was not worthy to untie. In preparation for Christ’s coming, John encouraged people to repent and restore a right relationship with God. We should do the same as we prepare to honor Christ’s birth and the hope that this brings for all of us. During this busy season, may we all find time to retreat with God in the wilderness.

SCRIPTURE: Matthew 3:1-12 (3) (NRSV)
The Proclamation of John the Baptist
In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said,
“The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.’”
Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.
But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor;’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the axe is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
“I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing-fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing-floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said,
‘The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight.'”

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Comments (12)

  1. Good thoughts, Hannah. What special memories you have with your dad and what you learned about taking time to retreat. You are right, we need that time during this busy season of the year.

    Ruth December 6, 2013 |
  2. It is true that we need a place of retreat. There is a place in my woods that I call “The Green Cathedral” where I am no more important than the grass growing there, nor the stream running through. There I am at peace.

    Flo Harnish December 6, 2013 |
  3. Hannah, Often we hear the word “wilderness” as a place of foreboding and dread. You have redeemed the word in much the same way the prophet Isaiah said of God, “I will give you the treasures of darkness” (45:3). Thank you for your prophetic wisdom.

    Jim Brenneman, GC President December 6, 2013 |
  4. Excellent post! Thank you Hannah.

    Jep Hostetler December 6, 2013 |
  5. One cannot overestimate the spiritual value of a place for quiet meditation and awareness of a personal and loving God who is always present with us. But to have enjoyed this experience with your own father is really wonderful, and will affect your entire life. Your Dad should be honored as “Dad of the Year” every year. You are so very fortunate. If he is still living, tell him so.

    Miriam December 6, 2013 |
  6. What a gift your dad gave you! Thanks for the reminder that we all need to go into the wilderness and experience the presence of God being open to what he has to say to us. Shalom

    Rene Pauls December 6, 2013 |
  7. What a blessing your father gave you, Hannah. Thanks for sharing, and for the reminder for us to find that wilderness spot today. Wilma

    Wilma Shank December 6, 2013 |
  8. What a beautiful relationship you have with your Dad (and nature!). I love being outdoors as well, and it does make you feel insignificant. But in that insignificance, wonder takes over. And you marvel at the colors, the smells, the breeze felt even raindrops (and snow!). How great thou art? Most certainly! Thanks again Hannah!

    Debbie Lackowitz December 6, 2013 |
  9. How true. May you continue to find refreshment and peace in God’s beautiful creation. We just moved to the southwest and we have snow this morning. It reminds me of how clean we can be in Christ! K

    Katie Cunningham December 6, 2013 |
  10. Hannah, Thank you for a great devotion. My sermon series for Advent is about a Christmas Tree. How perfect your thoughts compliment my sermons. Thank you

    Pastor Karen December 6, 2013 |
  11. Thank you, Hannah, for identifying the wilderness as a place to meet God, instead of a place where we feel lost, fearful, and confused. The excursions with your dad were great gifts from him to you, and channeled great gifts from your Heavenly Father as well. And, in this devotional, what a great gift you now give to your dad, and to God, and all the rest of us!

    James N. Miller December 6, 2013 |
  12. The place that I go for my wilderness is the beach. I have just returned from our annual late November trip to the Outer Banks. This trip is critical to being open to Advent, Christmas, and all that surround them. Thank you so much!

    penney helms December 8, 2013 |