Chelsea Van Der Poel explores how regardless the season, God's goodness creates a hopeful new day.
On the thirteenth day of Advent, 2021, Pastor Helen Wright invites us to rethink the wilderness and encourages us to take time to hear the voice of the Creator.
A voice cries out
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the book of the words of the prophet Isaiah, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’
Luke 3:1-6 NRSV
The place from which God speaks. Not the places from which the world has set up for important things to be announced. Not the places of thrones and governors and religious authorities. But outside the power structures of the city, out in the wilderness.
I feel like sometimes in our Christian culture the wilderness gets a bad wrap. The place of nothingness, of depression, of fear. The wild storm you need to get through before the calm of shelter. These past few years I’ve found myself invited into reframing my idea of wilderness. It’s time to listen deeply and hear the voice that’s crying out from the wilderness.
I’ve always found I hear God in beautiful quiet places in creation, outside the hustle and bustle of built-up city life. But lately I’ve been challenged when enjoying these places to remember I’m on someone’s land, that Aboriginal peoples are the traditional custodians of these places. That the land holds their stories, stories of creation and song, and often of displacement and death. Their voices are crying out from this beautiful life-filled ancient wilderness. This is their home.
Much of this I’m learning from my dear friend Brooke Prentis. I had the privilege of walking with her on the ancient paths of Wakka Wakka Country, her Country. There, as we walked and talked, the song lyric started winding round and round in my head “You, you show me a new way, a new way.” And I remember the conversation well. It’s not really a new way is it. It’s understanding and embracing and acknowledging an old way. And so came the line:
“It’s the old ways, for a new day, in a new way, we feel it here
And we are stepping into a new day, a new day.”
(A New Day, Brooke Prentis and Helen Wright)
For many this holiday season will involve travel and days off in beautiful places. Will we simply consume them? Or will we take time to hear the ancient voices crying out from the wilderness? Will we hear the voice of the Creator, renewing us, refilling us, calling us on? There are many crooked paths yet to be mended, rebuilt, smoothed out to make way for the ways of Christ. That all may walk along them - the rightful custodians of land, those who’ve been rejected and displaced, those who’ve experienced violence and oppression. Jesus is making a way for all.
Can we rebuild the ancient paths together, for a new day?
Helen Wright is a Pastor at Newtown Mission and oversees the Annandale Creative Arts Centre. Her passion is the role of creativity in bringing about social transformation and loves bringing people together around the story of Jesus, embracing the marginalised and restoring justice.
Jesus, as we await your coming this Advent season
May we listen deeply
Listen for the voices that have been silenced
Listen for the voices crying in the wilderness
Listen for the voice of the Creator
And may we hear the call to rebuild the ancient paths.
Come Jesus, come.
Photograph: Tim Everist, Sunrise, Uluru, Anangu Country, Northern Territory
Visual Description: A vivid pink sunset stretches across the sky with Uluru a small silhouette on the horizon.
To see the inspiration behind this year’s Advent theme watch the song and poetry collaboration by Helen Wright and Brooke Prentis, “A New Day” www.facebook.com/commongraceaus/videos/1308594612873336/
Find out more about Helen Wright's music @heartcriesworship