Beauty In The Desert And In Prison
Opening Question: What is the most beautiful sight you have seen at Christmas? Why is it so beautiful?
First Reading: Isaiah 35:1-6, 10
During Spring Break, Jade’s family decided to see the flowers in the desert. Early Monday morning, her family drove through the city, into the country, and finally into the mountains. The city had its lights in the fog. The country had its green fields, barns, and horses under broken clouds and the bright morning sun. The mountains had green trees that cast dark shadows over a winding road. Finally, they started the descent from the mountains to the desert.
Under a breaking sky, the desert looked very barren. Lots of sand and very few plants. But, when the car stopped, Jade stepped out on to the sand and looked down. Small gold flowers seemed to smile up at her. Then Jade walked over to a bush; small but very bright red pedals speckled the bush like miniature Christmas lights on a tree. The farther she walked, the more flowers she saw. Soon, Jade did not see the sandy desert, but a sea of small bright flower lights. The view reminded her of Candy Cane Lane where all the dark houses had lights to show the way.
By looking hard, Jade saw great beauty in the barren desert. She realized flowers in the desert need great strength to overcome the desert winds and high heat. They need ways to turn the harsh conditions to their advantage, so they can turn a dead place into a garden of beauty.
Sometimes, when we feel down, we feel we are in a desert, a place where nothing grows. But remember the flowers. Be strong, like the desert plants. Be ready to sing. For God is with us. He will turn our desert into a garden of beauty; he will turn our sad days into glad days.
Bridging Question: Have you ever been surprised by something or someone you knew? What was the surprise?
Gospel: Matthew 11:2-11
John the Baptist preached against King Herod because he married his brother’s wife. So, the king had his soldiers arrest John. When he was in jail, John heard the kinds of things Jesus was doing. John sent some of his followers to Jesus with a question. “Are you the one John said would come? Or, is there someone else we should expect?” they asked.
“Go tell John what you see and hear,” Jesus answered. “Blind people can now see. Deaf people can now hear clearly. Crippled people can now walk. People with diseases are now healthy. Dead people live again. And the poor have the Good News preached to them. The person who doesn’t doubt me is really happy!”
As John’s people left, Jesus began to talk to the crowd about the Baptist.“What did you go out to the desert to see? A reed swaying in the wind? 8 What did you go out to see? Someone dressed in expensive clothes? People who wear expensive clothes live in a king’s palace. So, what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, a prophet and much, much more! God talked about John in the Bible:
‘I am sending my messenger ahead of you.
He will prepare the way for you.’
Listen! No one who has ever lived is more important than John the Baptist. But the humblest person in God’s Kingdom is greater than John!”
Last week, we discussed how John the Baptist was like a coach. He prepared people for God’s Kingdom. He preached how someone greater than him would come and judge in God’s name. He preached and waited.
Then, suddenly, he was arrested and put into a dungeon. “Who will come to take my place?” John thought. “Who will come to bring God’s anger on these sinners? Who will come to save his people?”
When a few of his followers came to bring him food in prison, they talked about Jesus of Nazareth, his powerful preaching, and his miracles. “I know of this Jesus,” John said. “He’s my second cousin. I saw him in the crowds when I told people about God’s kingdom. I even baptized him. That was a bright day. I thought I heard thunder...” John voice trailed off in thought as he gazed to the ceiling. Then, John’s eyes went wide and he stared directly at his followers. “Go! Go at once!” John commanded them. “Go ask him if he is the Christ!” The followers left in excitement.
A few weeks later, John’s followers returned with more food. “Well, well. What did Jesus say?” were John’s only greeting. When they told him Jesus’ answer, John stood there puzzled. What happened to the One God promised, the one who would save his people from God’s anger? Then John sat and stared at the floor for a few minutes. In a flash the answer came to him. The blind can see, the crippled can walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead raised to life. If he lived in God’s kingdom, this is what would happen! The Kingdom was here and Jesus brought it to the people! “Jesus is the Christ,” John whispered. “Jesus is the Christ!” John shouted. “Go! Go follow him!” John commanded his followers. “Go and don’t worry about me. I know God will take care of me.” And the followers did as John asked them.
Jesus came to care for others. But he also came so we could follow him to God.
Closing Question: How can we care for others like Jesus this Advent? How can show him that we follow him?