Our pilgrimage in the Holy Land was done at a very appropriate time: Advent. The readings of this holy season constantly spoke of the restoration of the land which the Lord promised His people: "I will turn the desert into a marshland, and the dry ground into springs of water; I will plant in the desert the cedar, acacia, myrtle, and olive; I will set in the wasteland the cypress, together with the plane tree and the pine."
Looking at the desert terrain, I appreciated this promise of the Lord in a richer way. I realized that the desert waiting to bloom is truly the place to prepare for the holy feast of Christmas. John the Baptist prepared the people for the Lord's coming by preaching in the wilderness. It is in the wilderness that the prophet's voice is heard. And somehow, when we are distracted by the commercial preoccupations before Christmas, we miss the true significance of the holy day. The temptation to shop and to party lure us from truly preparing for this sacred feast of the Nativity. The Happy Holiday's spirit is like Las Vegas in the middle of the desert: filled with lights, enlivened by entertainment, but all are so artificial for when you leave the city, the desert will still be a desert. It is unlike the desert of Israel that is waiting for the action of God so that it may bloom again. And this is the true venue for our Advent preparations: the desert where there is silent anticipation , a gentle waiting for the coming of God. Let us not spend our Advent in the distractions of noisy revelry and shopping. Let our Advent nights be quieter as in the desert. Let them be spent in pious meditation of God's word. Let our Advent candles provide a gentle light for our nightly vigils. As Elijah waited on Mount Carmel and John the Baptist in the desert, let us wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Blessed Savior Jesus Christ!