Not even Thanksgiving yet, and I’ve sworn off the Arrowhead area until 2010. Which is a bummer, considering that I live there. Don’t know how I’m going to navigate the season, but I will at all cost avoid the mall and immediate vicinity. Traffic is crazy, the stores all look like Rudolph threw up in there, and people are not real plesant when you get between them and the last snowman dish towels.
Other neighborhoods all over the country have the same over-abundance of shopping centers, malls and chain restaurants, but the one in which you live always seems worse. So every day of this advent season, I will look forward to heading north, to this corner of 39th Ave and Happy Valley Rd., where my daily drive to work takes me over the mountain and through the Thunderbird Park state preserve area. In the Christmas jungle, a little bit of wilderness can go a long way.
Its no wonder John the Baptist camped out in the desert for much of his life. It is just breath-taking this time of year, when we are justified in suffering our summer months in misery. (Its possible I may even call friends and family and, as they dig out from under 3 feet of snow, brag that it got down to 60 today and i got to wear a sweater). The beauty of the desert landscape has an absurd spiritual value, its impossibility making it miraculous. Even though our “wilderness” corner here at Foothills Christian Church has a few hundred thousand people camped nearby and a brand new Safeway across the street, we are still just a little further into the desert than most of the metro area. We’ve got one foot up the mountain (hence the aptly named “Foothills Christian Church”) and we can see salvation on the other side. We can see landscape that’s not landscaped. We can see open space and from right here, we can just hear a voice calling us into that wilderness; prepare the way of the Lord.
If you feel like your preparation could use a lot less running and a lot more being still this year, I’ve got good news. If you think that preparation is less about those snowmen dish towels and more about your heart, I’ve got good news. If you know that God appreciates presence more than presents, I’ve got good news. If your thirsty soul craves a little bit of wilderness this year, I know a guy who can show us the way. In the wild, in the unknown: there is no Dow to determine your worth; no traffic; no politics; no swine flu; very few snow man dish towels. But there is good news.
Tis the season to share that good news with our neighbors. People of faith live, always, on the edge between Christ and culture, walking the thin line between urban sprawl and blessed wilderness. Can you glimpse the coming reign of God, just over the mountain? Where will you spend this holiday season? At Macy’s, or in the desert? Through the mall madness, the traffic jams, the endless compulsion to run faster and buy more, make straight in the desert a highway for your God. Prepare the way of the Lord.