Advent 2018: Into the desert with John

Second Sunday of Advent

December 9, 2018

Baruch 5:1-9
Psalm 126
Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11
Luke 3:1-6

This article appears in the Advent 2018 feature series. View the full series.
(Mark Bartholomew)

Editor's Note: During the Advent and Christmas season, Global Sisters Report is sharing Celebration's weekly "Scripture for Life" columns, commentary on the Sunday readings by sisters and others.


"The word of God came to John ... in the desert." That is what Luke said to introduce the prophet who would prepare the way of the Lord. According to Luke, John's ministry was the pivotal point in salvation history; the new and final era was coming into being.

On this Second Sunday of Advent, unless we live in an area such as the Southwest U.S., the desert is probably about as far from our imaginations as a herd of camels. (Now you're thinking about camels, right?) Luke wants us to think about the desert and why John was there instead of protesting around the palace or preaching in the Temple. (John eventually did the first; Jesus did the latter. The results are well-known.)

The desert was Israel's birthplace. God brought the people out of slavery and then led them on a 40-year desert trek to teach them what it meant to be the people of God. They needed that time to get over their servile identity. They lived those 40 years without the distractions of building homes and businesses; that long experience of being on the move taught them to rely on God alone. When they forgot the lessons of the desert, God sent them into exile for 60 years. In both instances, hardship stripped them of everything so that they could figure out what was essential.

Read the full version of this Scripture commentary on Celebration.

[Mary M. McGlone is a Sister of St. Joseph currently writing the history of the Sisters of St. Joseph in the U.S.]